The English Football League was established by Aston Villa director, William McGregor. The Football League began in 1888 after McGregor grew tired of teams organising random friendlies. In McGregor’s opinion, the friendlies weren’t a reliable source of money.
From 1885 to 1888, McGregor was the most important member of Aston Villa’s board. His influence was great and extended further than Villa Park. McGregor was appointed as the first English Football League chairman after he came up with the idea to play competitive football matches rather than friendlies. He was later elected as a Lifetime President of the Football League.
McGregor wasn’t just an Aston Villa board member or Football League rep. He was also a celebrity within the game. He wrote a weekly opinion column for the Birmingham Gazette newspaper. McGregor also endorsed footballs and football boots. Despite being such a major figure in the sport, McGregor never played football competitively.
Who were the original member clubs in the English Football League?
The first season of the English Football League included 12 teams. Each team was from England’s midlands and northern regions. Preston North End were the first club to win the league trophy after going unbeaten in all of their matches. Teams played 22 matches in the league and Preston North End finished the campaign with a record of 18W-4D-0L. Preston North End repeated their title win the next season. Remarkably, it was not until 1893 that the English Football League had its first London team, Woolwich Arsenal. In 1905, Chelsea joined the Football League in 1905 as the division was expanded to 20 teams.
Preston North End were joined by:
- Blackburn Rovers
- Bolton Wanderers
- Derby County
- Notts County
- Stoke City
- West Brom
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
The original points system is different from the one used today. Teams received two points for a win and one for a draw.