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William McGregor lived from 13 April 1846 to 20 December 1911. He was the founder of the English Football League, the first organised football league in the world. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
William McGregor was born in Braco in Perthshire. He served his apprenticeship as a draper in Perth and in 1870 followed his brother to Birmingham where he established a business in the Aston area of the city. William had first become interested in football after watching a local match at Ardoch just north of Braco, in 1865. After moving to Birmingham he maintained his interest in the game, and followed a local club, Calthorpe, which had been formed by a fellow Scot, Campbell Orr. McGregor would close his shop early for home matches, and sold football kit.
In 1877, McGregor was asked to join the committee of another local club, Aston Villa, which had been formed in 1874 and played at Aston Park, close to McGregor's shop. Aston Villa won their first trophy, the Birmingham Senior Cup, in 1880, and the following year, McGregor became a director of the club. In 1887 they won the FA Cup, defeating local rivals West Bromwich Albion in the final. McGregor became vice-chairman of the club in 1895, and chairman in 1897. One of his innovations was the introduction onto the club's crest of the Scottish lion rampant, where it remains today.
Increasing professionalism in football during the 1880s led to difficulty in maintaining a reliable schedule of friendly matches between cup competitions. On 2 March 1888 McGregor wrote to the committees of his own club and four others, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, proposing a league competition that would provide a number of guaranteed fixtures for its member clubs each season. A meeting was held on 17 April 1888 in Manchester, and "The Football League" was born. Twelve clubs took part in the first season of League football that started in September 1888.
McGregor went on to serve as chairman of the League's Management Committee from 1888 until 1892 and was the League's President from 1892 until 1894. He also became the first life member of the League in 1895. In parallel, he served as chairman of the Football Association between 1888 and 1894. He died in 1911 and is remembered as "father of The Football League".