Brian Mawhinney dead: Ex-Football League boss and former Tory MP dies at 79

Tributes have been paid to ex-Football League chairman and Tory MP Brian Mawhinney, who's died aged 79.

The Belfast-born politician, who served as a Cabinet Minister under Prime Minister John Major, had been battling a long illness, his family said.

He was appointed Chairman of the Football League in 2003 and oversaw a major restructure of the three divisions the following year.

As part of the changes, Division One was renamed the Championship, and Divisions Two and Three were renamed League One and League Two respectively.

Mawhinney served as Conservative Party MP for Peterborough from 1979 until 1997, and MP for the newly-created seat of North West Cambridgeshire from 1997 until 2005.

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He became Northern Ireland secretary in 1990 under John Major, before serving as Health Secretary from 1992 until 1994.

After a year as Transport Secretary between 1994 and 1995, he was then appointed Conservative Party Chairman until Tony Blair's Labour Party won a landslide victory in 1997.

Tributes have poured in for Mawhinney from both the worlds of football and politics.

The chairman of the Football League, now called the EFL, Rick Parry, led the praise.

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"Everyone associated with the EFL is saddened to hear of the loss of Lord Mawhinney, a hugely respected and influential figure in our recent past," he said.

He added that Mawhinney had "a significant impact on the wider game".

In a statement, his family said the "much-loved husband, father and grandfather and a friend to many" died on Saturday after a long illness.

"His death brings an end to a life dedicated to public service and rooted in an unwavering Christian faith," the statement said.

After standing down as an MP in 2005, Mawhinney joined the House of Lords as a Tory peer.

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He was also a patron of Peterborough United, after representing the city in parliament for two decades, and the League One side paid tribute after news of his death broke.

"Brian was a tremendous ambassador for this football club and his love and knowledge of the game was always a great help to Peterborough United, a football club he loved," said chief executive Bob Symns.

As well as changing the names of the leagues, Mawhinney also oversaw the introduction of a fit and proper persons test for prospective club directors, which was later adopted by the Premier League.

He also brought in controversial rules which introduced points penalties and other punishments for clubs which went into administration.

Mawhinney stepped down in 2010, and in his farewell letter he called for clubs in administration to be relegated and warned clubs to better control their players' wages and agents' fees.

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