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Lord Mawhinney, President of the Football League with Doug Ellis, President of Aston Villa

"God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure."

Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire

William McGregor

A service of celebration and recognition of William McGregor took place at St Mary’s Church, Handsworth, Birmingham on 20 December 2011. McGregor, former chairman of Aston Villa, was the founder and first chairman of the Football League and arguably the father of all football leagues worldwide. He died exactly 100 years earlier.

The statue at Villa Park

The service was attended by representatives of the twelve founder members of the Football League: Accrington Stanley (representing the original Accrington FC), Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Representatives of the Football League founder members

Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive of Aston Villa, welcomed those attending. Readings were by the Moderator of the United Reformed Church, representing the church which McGregor had attended and the President of the Methodist Conference in recognition of Villa’s Methodist church origins. The Minister of Ardoch Parish Church, Braco, Scotland, where McGregor came from, had travelled from Scotland to take part.

Paul Faulkner with Jim Walker

Cyrille Regis with Graham and Keith from Christians in Sport

The address was by Peter Lupson author of Thank God for Football and Thank God for Football, The Illustrated Companion

Lord Brian Mawhinney, President of the Football League - pictured at the top with Aston Villa president, Doug Ellis - gave a tribute to McGregor suggesting that he would be chuffed to see how football had developed on a worldwide scale in the past 100 years. Noting that William McGregor’s legendary integrity came out of his strong Christian faith, Lord Mawhinney suggested that this was something we could all learn from the McGregor's example.

Afterwards The Rt Revd Andrew Watson, Bishop of Aston, rededicated the memorial to William McGregor, which had been restored by the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust.

The grave

It was a fitting way to remember the contribution of one of the pioneers of football by recognizing the Christian contribution to the development of our national game.

Keith Hammond Christians in Football, David Oakley, Ambassadors in Sport with Jim Walker

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