Former New Zealand Football President, and Honorary Patron of the New Zealand Football Foundation Sir Eion Edgar, has died of pancreatic cancer aged 76.
“Today is a sad day for Aotearoa,” said New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell.
“Sir Eion’s vision and support has had and will continue to have a massive impact on football and sport in this country – from proposing the idea of the New Zealand Football Foundation in 2010, to driving the development of facilities, especially in Otago.”
In the mid-1990s Sir Eion and his wife Lady Jan donated $500,000 to the creation of an indoor multisport facility and encouraged Dunedin City Council to cover the remaining costs. He had the idea for the New Zealand Football Foundation back in 2010 after the All Whites secured a place at
the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a use for some of the funds received from the tournament.
During Sir Eion’s time as chair of Forsyth Barr Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest indoor sports arena, the iconic Forsyth Barr Stadium, was built. It was a key venue at the FIFA Men’s U-20 World Cup 2015 and will host games during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“The opportunities that these facilities bring to Aotearoa are a key part of his legacy,” says Pragnell.
Former New Zealand Football President and current New Zealand Football Foundation trustee Frank van Hattum remembers Sir Eion as “a man of immense mana and credibility.
“It didn’t matter who you were, he always had time for you. He treated everyone as equal, and was always generous with his time and advice.”
New Zealand Football Foundation Chief Executive Michele Cox echoes this.
“He was always very accessible. Despite being so busy he would always create time for you, and offer his advice and networks in support,” she said.
She also noted that his legacy of community and giving spans more than just football, with then recently opened Dunstan Trail being one such example.
Sir Eion and his wife Lady Jan’s contributions to the sport and recreation sector were recognized by Sport NZ last month at a special event hosted in Queenstown, where the couple have been based.
Friend and colleague Bill Moran, a former New Zealand Football ExCo member who currently chairs Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ, as well as being a trustee of the New Zealand Football Foundation, also paid tribute to Sir Eion.
“He would see an opportunity that would benefit the wider community, and do what he could to catalyse that and make it happen.
“His leadership style was marked by leading from the front, and not asking anyone to do something he wasn’t prepared to do himself. He sorted problems in an inclusive, non-confrontational way, and was never distracted by petty politics or the like.”
Edgar was also much more than a philanthropist, says Moran.
“He was a visionary and a catalyst. He would find ways to support causes depending on what they required – whether it was financially, but also through mentorship or finding the right people to be involved. He always sought the best result for the team, whoever that team was. He would always be the first person to give, and then encourage others to follow suit in whatever way they could.”
One of the most memorable instances of this was in 2016, at New Zealand Football’s 125th birthday celebrations.
Having seen the opportunity to encourage others to donate to the New Zealand Football Foundation to give it a strong capital base to work from, Edgar decided to pledge $500,000 to the Foundation – and called on then Foundation president Mark Stewart to do the same as, giving him just a few
“‘I’m going up and saying I’m going to donate $500,000. You’d better match me,’” Moran recalls
Edgar saying to Stewart as he took to the stage to speak. Stewart duly matched Sir Eion’s donation.
Sir Eion is survived by wife Lady Jan and their three sons. He was President of New Zealand Football from 2002-2005, and was also the New Zealand Football Foundation’s Honorary Patron.