The Swedish Professional Football Leagues was formed in Malmö 1 December 1928 as a counterpart to the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), as the association’s relationship with the Swedish clubs was not at its best at that very moment since the clubs perceived not being fully promoted and prioritised on several occasions.
The first chair of the organisation was John Bill Pettersson from Helsingborgs IF. When the very first steps were taken to form the organisation at a meeting in Helsingborg in 1927, Bill Pettersson was appointed chair of the board of trustees, so when the Swedish First Division was formed in 1928, it was obvious that the then 42-year-old Bill Pettersson would stay on as chair.
Back in 1935, Helsingborgs IF was demoted from the first division Allsvenskan and since only first division teams were allowed to be part of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Bill Pettersson had to hand over the chairmanship to Sven Jonsson from IK Sleipner.
One of the important decisions taken during Sven Jonsson’s time, was that the players would have numbers on the back of their shirts, which was something that came into effect amid protests suggesting that this would make the players look like circus performers.
In 1942, the former secretary of the organisation, Eric Persson, nicknamed “the chief”, was appointed chair. During his time, the work of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues was streamlined and its influence in Swedish football increased. Among many other things, Persson suggested that the players in Allsvenskan should sign contracts with their clubs to prevent foreign clubs taking the players, but also so that the clubs could demand he players to spend more time in training.
Eric Persson was on the board of Malmö FF for a full 46 years, between 1929 to 1975, but he was discharged from his position as chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues in 1957 after travelling with his club Malmö FF to be the coach of the team at a tournament in the Mediterranean region, instead of attending the Swedish Professional Football Leagues’ annual meeting.
Instead, in 1957, Erik “The Tailor” Svensson from Örgryte IS (ÖIS) was elected chair, succeeding Eric Persson. He was nicknamed “The Tailor” after having managed to successfully balance the finances for ÖIS together in a time of grave financial problems. Erik Svensson had an eventful time as chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues when the new media television arrived, which raised many discussions and intense negotiations.
In 1959, the calendar of Allsvenskan was changed to a so called “winter league”, starting in autumn and ending in spring, as the usage of flood lights was approved and implemented.
In the same period, it was also decided that the clubs of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues would pay SEK 10,000 in damages in the case of a player transfer between two clubs, where the parties could not agree.
In 1962, Erik Svensson resigned at the annual meeting when several years of tough negotiations eventually took their toll.
Einar Nilsson from Helsingborgs IF was elected chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues in 1962. One of the first decisions he was involved in was to make a miniature copy of the von Rosen’s trophy, which was handed out to the winner of the league, to be kept for the winning club each year.
In 1966, there was a paradigm shift in the Swedish sports system when a proposal to repeal the amateur regulations was approved. At a meeting in Malmö, it was agreed that this would happen in line with the general competition regulations of the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) and the compensation regulations of SvFF. Seven out of twelve clubs voted for the proposal and consequently, 1967 was the first season without amateur regulations in Swedish club football.
In 1972, the name of the league association was changed to the current name: the Swedish Professional Football Leagues. The following year, Einar Nilsson resigned as chair at the annual meeting.
Lars Appelqvist from IFK Norrköping was elected at the annual meeting 1973 as the new chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues. Appelqvist had already been a member of the board of SvFF since 1970 and had served as a treasurer of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues since 1964.
Gösta Bohman of IFK Göteborg became the first full-time General Secretary of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues in 1973. The historic decision and the appointment of the position was made by the board following the annual meeting. Bohman was considered well-suited for the assignment, as he had been the board secretary of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues since 1962.
The Swedish Professional Football Leagues counted 47 member clubs at this time. Of these were 14 clubs residing in the top league Allsvenskan, 28 clubs in Division 2, as well as five clubs in Division 3 (which according to an agreement had been allowed to remain).
In 1978, Lars Appelqvist succeeded Gösta Bohman as General Secretary. Norrköping-born Lars had been on the board of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues since 1964 and became its chair in 1973. Lars Appelqvist was chair of IFK Norrköping when he accepted the offer from the board to take over and dedicate his full time. In parallel and aside from football, he was working as a bank executive. It was also Lars who equipped the Swedish Professional Football Leagues with an office, and he made sure to keep the organisation on par with the current times. At the same time, Lennart Johansson took over as chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues.
During Lennart Johansson’s time, it was decided that at least five members of the board of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues would be connected to a club from the top league Allsvenskan and simultaneously be members of their club’s board. It was also decided that each Swedish club was allowed to sign two foreign players in their squads.
The Swedish Professional Football Leagues also conducted a survey of the clubs’ finances and noticed that in many cases they were out of control, which led to the idea to introduce a measuring and control system; the club license.
Lennart Johansson was also involved in bringing the UEFA European Championships to Sweden in 1992. He later made a career as President of UEFA and is still ranked today as one of the major football leaders Sweden has ever had.
In 1984, Lennart Johansson left his chairmanship of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues to become chair of SvFF. Taking his place, Stig Sunne, vice-chair of Malmö FF, was elected chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues.
In 1986, the Swedish Professional Football Leagues changed the statutes so that membership would only be offered for clubs playing in Allsvenskan or in one of the two Division 1 series.
The annual report of the organisation showed a new record this year. The total turnover of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues amounted to SEK 13.45 million, of which SEK 12.85 million came from Tipstjänst, the Swedish national betting service, and Swedish Radio.
In 1989, Stig Sunne handed over the chairmanship to another vice-chair of Malmö FF, Bengt Madsen. Thanks to his position in Malmö FF, Madsen had joined the board of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues a few years previously and worked hard to increase income from both television and the Swedish betting agreement. During Madsen’s time as chair, the funds of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues increased to more than SEK 100 million.
Spectator numbers also increased steadily, and the Swedish Professional Football Leagues were among other things involved in the start of the Royal League and co-founded the European leagues’ organisation EPFL.
In 1991, Madsen also became vice-chair of SvFF.
Between 1990 and 1991, Lars-Christer Olsson was appointed General Secretary of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues, but when Lars-Åke Lagrell was elected chair of SvFF, he wanted Lars-Christer to take the role as General Secretary of the association. Which is why Tommy Theorin was taking over as General Secretary in 1994.
In 2005, Bengt Madsen left his position as chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues and was succeeded by Bosse Lundquist from Djurgårdens IF.
Tommy Theorin had a background in ice-hockey and was involved in developing the Swedish match events, increasing spectator averages and developing the image of Allsvenskan by introducing novelties such as collecting statistics and kick-off meetings before the start of each season. The chair Bosse Lundquist improved the television agreement, which was previously handled by SvFF, so that the Swedish Professional Football Leagues played a greater role in the negotiations.
In 2008, Bosse Johansson from IF Elfsborg was appointed new chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues. When he joined the organisation in March 2009, Bosse was of the opinion that the decisions being made in the Swedish Professional Football Leagues were too focused on the practitioners’ perspective, but football had seen greater commercial and public focus since the 1990s.
Bosse wanted to modernise the Swedish Professional Football Leagues into an professional organisation and on his initiative, the Swedish Professional Football Leagues initiated an inquiry to find out how to improve Swedish football since it was considered that Swedish football had fallen behind the development of other European countries in several areas. This led to the consulting company JKL in 2010 delivering an investigation called “the Future Inquiry”, which later resulted in the project called “the Best Nordic League”.
Bosse Johansson was also involved in the move of the offices from Malmö to Stockholm before being succeeded as chair by Lars-Christer Olsson in 2012. Lars-Christer began his football career in the club Bjärreds IF as the starting point for his great interest in football and the big appointments he would later gain in football. Lars-Christer has been chair of the regional Skåne Football Association, and at the same time he combined this with studying economics at University while training football teams. In 1990, he was appointed general secretary of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues and he quickly became a name in football. When Lars-Åke Lagrell left his post as General Secretary of SvFF to become its chair, Lars-Christer quickly became an interesting candidate to take over the role as general secretary, a position he could not turn down. In 2000, Lennart Johansson offered him a job at UEFA, and as of 2004 he was general secretary of UEFA. Given his impressive career and extensive experience in the world of international football, it was an honour and true pleasure to have him back as the chair of the Swedish Professional Football Leagues in 2012, after he had completed his UEFA assignment. At the annual meeting in 2021, Lars-Christer Olsson resigned and handed over the chairmanship to Jens T Andersson. Between 2016-2021, Lars-Christer Olsson was also chair of the European Leagues.
In 2012, Mats Enquist was appointed general secretary after the resignation of Tommy Theorin. Mats had, among other things, previous experience from the Swedish Golf Association. During Mats Enquist’s years in the Swedish Professional Football Leagues, the organisation has grown, developed, and become stronger. Mats has taken the project the Best Nordic League further and the Swedish Professional Football Leagues has come a long way through supporter collaboration, community involvement, greater transparency, and clearer communication to the outside world. Mats has also ensured that the Swedish Professional Football Leagues has launched new projects such as eAllsvenskan and Allsvenskan Fantasy and that the Swedish Futsal League has been included within the framework of the organisations operations.
In March 2022, Jens T Andersson stepped down as chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, after only one year in the post. In the spring of 2022, Simon Åström, formerly chair of Örebro SK, was elected as the new chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues.
In May 2023 Mats Enquist stepped down from his position as General Secretary after eleven years at his post. Mats has taken the work with the Nordics’ Best League further, and Swedish Professional Football Leagues has come a long way here through supporter cooperation, community involvement and clearer external communication. Under the leadership of Mats, Swedish Professional Football Leagues has been able to launch new projects such as EFIT, eAllsvenskan and Allsvenskan Fantasy, also the Swedish Futsal League has been included within the framework of SEF’s operations.
Under the leadership of Mats, Swedish Professional Football Leagues has grown from approximately SEK 270 million to approximately SEK 850 million in turnover and has become the organization it is today, where SEF has also gained ground in several positions outside the football field. The attendance has grown to record levels and the general reputation of elite football in Sweden is at its peak. According to surveys, football is the most popular sport in Sweden and Allsvenskan is today the most popular league and is also growing the fastest among young people. The leagues’ and clubs’ own channels together have over 1.3 billion exposures each year.
The clubs in Allsvenskan and Superettan are an engine for integration and community and contribute massively to society. Over five million Swedes have a favorite team in Allsvenskan and every year the elite football in Sweden is considered to contribute over SEK 1.2 billion to the society.
In May 2023, Johan Lindvall took over as General Secretary of Swedish Professional Football Leagues. Johan comes most recently from the role of CEO of Visby Golfklubb and has previously been sponsor manager and brand manager in Svenska Spel’s group management and worked at Destination Gotland. For the past six years, he has also sat on the board of Women’s Elite Football.
Chairs throughout the years:
1928-1935 John Pettersson
1935-1942 Sven Jonsson
1942-1957 Eric Persson
1957-1962 Erik Svensson
1962-1973 Einar Nilsson
1973-1978 Lars Appelqvist
1978-1984 Lennart Johansson
1984-1989 Stig Sunne
1989-2005 Bengt Madsen
2005-2009 Bo Lundquist
2009-2012 Bo Johansson
2012–2021 Lars-Christer Olsson
2021–2022 Jens T Andersson
2022– Simon Åström
CEO:s throughout the years:
1973-1978 Gösta Bohman
1978-1992 Lars Appelqvist
1992-1994 Lars-Christer Olsson
1994-2012 Tommy Theorin
2012-2023 Mats Enquist
2023- Johan Lindvall