Greg Clarke photographed in the Football League trophy room (Football League)

Former Leicester City chairman Greg Clarke will succeed Brian Mawhinney as chairman of the English Football League.

His appointment was ratified by the Football League board yesterday and announced this lunchtime.

Clarke described himself “honoured” by the appointment and said that he hopes to build on the huge progress made during Mawhinney’s seven years at the helm.

“As a lifelong and committed football fan it is a privilege to serve the game in this capacity,” he said. 

“My time at Leicester City provided an insight into the challenges clubs face on a daily basis. The lessons learnt from that experience will not be forgotten.

“I look forward to joining a highly successful organisation whose clubs are at the heart of their communities. I intend to build on The League’s recent successes and represent all our 72 clubs.”

Clarke, a 52 year-old telecommunications executive, was a surprise choice, despite early frontrunners such as David Sheepshanks, the former-Ipswich chairman, long pulling out of the race to succeed Mawhinney. He was previously ceo of Cable and Wireless and in November last year was appointed ceo of O3b, a satellite internet provider, but left after just three months.

His football experience lies with Leicester City whose board Clarke joined in 2000. He took over as chairman in August 2002 with the club facing grave financial difficulties and with Gary Lineker led a consortium who guaranteed its financial survival. Serb-American businessman Milan Mandaric took over from the consortium in January 2007.

“Greg Clarke was the clear choice of the Board to become the new Chairman of The Football League,” said the League’s independent board member Ian Ritchie, who led the recruitment process.

“Greg will build on the substantial progress made by Lord Mawhinney, focusing on further improving League football’s professionalism and business structure, as well as maintaining the momentum on good governance. 

“In short, he will aim to make The League even more effective on behalf of all its clubs.”

In succeeding Mawhinney, who will keep his place on the England 2018 World Cup bid board, Clarke will nevertheless have big boots to fill.

The out-going chairman took over the league in 2003 as it faced financial ruin following the collapse of ITV digital. Mawhinney succeeded in reorganising and rebranding the league, also bringing in a number of eye-catching reforms that make it one of the better governed leagues in European football. The measure of Mawhinney’s success is witnessed in the Football League Championship, which is Europe’s fourth-best attended division.

In recognizing Mawhinney’s achievements, the league has recommended to its 72 clubs that Mawhinney be made Honorary President when they meet later this month.

With reporting from James Corbett ([email protected])

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