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William McGregor

1846 - 1911

Football administrator. Born in Braco (Perth & Kinross), McGregor became an apprentice draper in Perth, before following his brother to Birmingham in 1870, where he set up his own drapery business. He had first developed an interest in football when he saw a match played at Ardoch in 1865. In Birmingham, he joined the recently-established football club Aston Villa in 1877, not so much as a player but to help with their administration and as a referee. He worked alongside their successful manager and fellow Scot, George Ramsay (1855 - 1935), the two becoming firm friends. As the game of football professionalised, McGregor joined the Aston Villa Board, becoming its Vice Chairman in 1895 and Chairman in 1897. McGregor is known to have brought an Aston Villa team to Scotland to play St. Johnstone Football Club in Perth.

Despite being a supporter of the professional game, he became concerned at the chaotic nature of football fixtures, which were often cancelled, to the frustration of supporters, because more lucrative matches became available and clubs needed to pay salaries. He therefore proposed a Football League which would ensure a number of guaranteed fixtures throughout the year. The League came into being in 1888 with McGregor as Chairman. He oversaw its expansion into two divisions in 1892 and, although formally retiring the same year, he continued his involvement with the League for the rest of his life. He was also Chairman of the governing body of the sport in England, The Football Association (1888-94) and was involved in early attempts to establish a baseball league in the United Kingdom.

McGregor died in Birmingham and lies buried in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church in Handsworth, close to three other noted Scotsmen: his friend George Ramsay, together with the inventor of practical steam-power James Watt (1736 - 1819) and gas lighting pioneer William Murdock (1754 - 1839). His statue stands outside Villa Park, Aston Villa's stadium in Birmingham.

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