The Inspirational William McGregor

The Inspirational William McGregor, by Peter Lupson and John Lerwill, Birmingham, A & J L Solutions, 2011

The book whose subtitle is Father of The Football League and all football leagues, tells the story of the contribution to the development of Association Football of William McGregor (1846-1911).

Review by Stuart Weir (Verite Sport):

McGregor was a Scot who came to Birmingham where he opened a drapery business. Amazingly he had no background in football but was soon arranging the opening hours of his shop to fit kick-off times!

He became a committee member at Aston Villa and eventually the chairman. As Villa chairman he wrote a letter to other top clubs, noting: “Every year it is becoming more and more difficult for football clubs of any standing to meet their friendly engagements and even arrange friendly matches. The consequence is that at the last moment, through Cup-tie interference, clubs are compelled to take on teams who will not attract the public”.

He then proposed that “ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season…This combination might be known as the Association Football Union”.

The first games in the new Football League took place on 8 Sepember 1888. He became the first chairman of the Football League.

McGregor was a committed Christian, involved in the Congregational Church in Wheeler Street for over 40 years. At his funeral service the Reverend W. G. Percival, said that he had always found McGregor to be “a man of absolutely unblemished personal character, and one who had always been a kind and generous supporter of the work of the church.” The best thing about him “was not so much the genial, kindly, honest sportsman, but it was the Christian behind it all.”

One example of his integrity was his stand against sham-amateurism which led to the introduction of professional football in a legal and above-board way.

We owe a great debt to the authors for researching and publishing the story of this fine Christian pioneer of the Football League.

Note: Peter Lupson has also written Thank God for Football and

Thank God for Football, The Illustrated Companion