Football in the nineteenth century was a shambolic affair. William McGregor turned it from an amateur pastime into a professional endeavour. He founded the football league - and changed the game forever.
A most persistent problem: during the nineteenth century, the noble game of football was a spectacle more loved by the players than by the general populace.
There was seemingly no end to the myriad of cups that could be won – and no logic to decide which of the many teams should play one another. Without a practicable system, scorelines were often excruciatingly one-sided. Unsurprisingly, the public was unprepared to attend such humiliating defeats.
Another issue: a woeful lack of order and discipline. Fixtures between clubs were routinely cancelled just minutes before the ball was due to be kicked. Aston Villa suffered a not uncommon problem – their matches were cancelled five Saturdays in a row.
William McGregor, a committee member of the Birmingham-based club, knew that something needed to be done to put the game on a more orderly standing.
With a spark of optimism, Mr McGregor wrote a letter to the heads of other leading clubs and changed the sporting world forever. His suggestion? The elite teams should convene a pre-determined programme of home and away fixtures. A football league, if you will.
Unknowingly, McGregor had conceived the world’s very first sporting arrangement of this type – one which spawned a series of imitators in almost every other discipline.
At home, McGregor’s league transformed football from amateur pastime to professional endeavour – and to the multi-billion pound global industry it has become today. Soon after, his idea travelled around the world.