A member of the FA council and an active member of the International Selection Committee, he was presented with the Football Association’s long service gold medal just two weeks before his death in December 1911.
Not only did McGregor shape Aston Villa, he was also responsible for the formation of the Football League.
Born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1847, McGregor moved to Birmingham in 1870, running a linen draper’s shop in Summer Lane with his brother.
He was invited to join the Villa committee in 1877, and subsequently held every office with the club. But his influence extended far beyond this corner of Birmingham.
After coming up with the idea to play competitive matches rather than friendlies, McGregor was appointed the first chairman of the Football League, becoming President four years later. In 1894 Villa played a Football League XI in a testimonial match for his benefit, and he was also elected the league’s first Life President.
The Barclays Premier League is often described as the best in the world – but the concept of league football all started with Villa director William McGregor.
It was in 1888 when Villa took their place as founder members of the Football League, thanks to the vision of McGregor.
He had already played a major role in bringing greater professionalism into football but his most important work was undoubtedly the creation of the League.
Like other leading clubs, Villa were finding even the most prestigious friendly matches were not attracting the same sort of attendances as Cup games.
McGregor, a draper with premises near Aston Park, set about gaining support for a competition which would offer clubs in the Midlands and the North regular competitive matches.
He wrote to the clubs, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the concept, and the Football League was created with 12 founding teams.
The other founder members were:
- Blackburn Rovers
- Bolton Wanderers
- Derby County
- Notts County
- Preston North End
- Stoke City
- West Bromwich Albion
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
A points system was agreed – two points for a win and one for a draw – and McGregor was elected the first chairman of the Football League.
Since then, league football has been a success in leagues around the world for decades. In England, the Football league has continued to be a success for over 100 years, eventually growing to four divisions.
In 1992, the first division effectively became the Premier League and is now a worldwide global phenomenon.