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Football League celebrates 125 years

28 February 2013


The Football League, the world’s original league football competition, is to celebrate its 125th anniversary during 2013.

The anniversary period will begin on Saturday 2 March which marks 125 years since League founder, William McGregor, sent his letter to clubs suggesting “that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season.”

McGregor’s letter was the catalyst for the beginning of league football, which 125 years later still dominates the sporting landscape in countries throughout the world.

Following the decision to permit professionalism in 1885, the game’s development was becoming stifled by the lack of a coherent and organised fixture list.

The predominance of cup football meant that clubs could easily lose fixtures at relatively short notice and it was even common for clubs to cancel matches because they had been offered more lucrative fixtures elsewhere.

Perthshire-born McGregor, the Secretary of Aston Villa, felt that immediate action was needed and he wrote a letter to Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Preston and West Brom.

Part of the letter read:

Every year it is becoming more and more difficult for football clubs of any standing to meet their friendly engagements and even arrange friendly matches. The consequence is that at the last moment, through cup-tie interference, clubs are compelled to take on teams who will not attract the public.

I beg to tender the following suggestion as a means of getting over the difficulty: that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season, the said fixtures to be arranged at a friendly conference about the same time as the International Conference.

This combination might be known as the Association Football Union, and could be managed by representative from each club.

The Football League will celebrate its 125th anniversary with its clubs and their supporters at the beginning of the 2013/14 season and its Head of Communications, John Nagle, said:  "The McGregor letter is the start of Saturday at 3.00pm as we know it today, it’s the point at which professional football decides it has to get organised or be strangled at birth.

“The fact that 125 years later The Football League continues to thrive and that league football has become a sporting phenomenon across the globe is the greatest possible tribute to McGregor's foresight.”

To find out more about William McGregor, the Father of The Football League, click here.

To read about 125 years of The Football League in numbers, click here

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