News from Played in Britain

Trust launches appeal to renovate grave of Football League founder

August 29 2011

McGregor grave

Photograph © Sandman Productions. For more information on the McGregor grave, visit

William McGregor

William McGregor, the Scottish draper known in his dotage as 'the Father of the Football League'

Following the unveiling of a statue of the founder of the Football League, William McGregor, at Villa Park in Birmingham (see previous story here, a fund raising campaign has been launched to renovate McGregor's grave at St Mary's, Handsworth Wood, in Birmingham.

Set up by the Aston Villa fanzine Heroes and Villains, in association with the Aston Villa Supporters' Trust, the campaign is planning to unveil the renovated grave on December 20, the 100th anniversary of William McGregor's death in 1911.

Born in Braco, Perthshire in 1847, McGregor moved to Birmingham in 1870, where he and his brother ran a draper's shop in the working class district of Newtown. William soon became involved in local football affairs, eventually becoming a leading administrator with Aston Villa. It was at his instigation that in 1888 the world's first ever Football League was founded, a form of competition that, in the view of many contemporaries, guaranteed the survival and prosperity of professional football, then in its formative years.

McGregor's importance as an historic figure was matched by his popularity as a character. Warm-hearted, with a keen sense of humour and an abiding commitment to what we would now call football's role in the community, McGregor was above all a modest man, as is suggested by his gravestone, on which his achievements in football are not referred to at all.

Moves to renovate the grave have been mooted on many occasions in the past, but only now are they coming to fruition, thanks to the efforts of Peter Lupson, author of Thank God For Football, a study of the religious origins of various leading English clubs, including current Premiership contenders Aston Villa, Bolton, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham.

It is hoped that the unveiling of the renovated grave will be marked by a service at St Mary's, attended by representatives of the Football League and its twelve founder member clubs.

Donations towards the renovations can be made via Paypal at or by cheque, made payable to Aston Villa Supporters Trust, 2 Coton Road, Walton on Trent, Derbys, DE12 8NL.

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