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Football: Who are you? Scot secretary built English template

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

When Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and the rest of the Premier League's millionaire superstars take the sporting spotlight once again this weekend they will owe a debt of gratitude to a little-known Scot called William McGregor.

It is unlikely that Rooney, Bale and company will take long to contemplate the contribution made by McGregor exactly 125 years ago, but his decision to put his thoughts about the development of professional football in England onto paper proved one of the most momentous moments in the history of the game.

The Football Association formally legalised professionalism in 1885, but back in the days when the sport was still in its infancy, clubs, who only played in cup competitions or friendlies at the time, needed a regulated system which would give them an increased income and McGregor, in his role as secretary of Aston Villa, provided the template.

McGregor was determined to ensure the game he loved was given the broadest scope possible to develop and that meant finding a way for more regular competition between the country's best teams.

So on March 2, 1888, McGregor wrote to Blackburn, Bolton, Preston and West Bromwich Albion with the blueprint for a new professional league.

"I beg to tender the following suggestion... that 10 or 12 of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season," he wrote.

The letter struck a chord with powerbrokers at the other clubs and two weeks later all parties met at Anderton's Hotel in Fleet Street, London, to discuss the proposals.

It was here that a set of basic principles for a professional league were agreed and a further meeting took place at the Royal Hotel, Manchester in April when the name "The Football League" was decided on.

"The McGregor letter is the start of Saturday at 3pm as we know it today," Football League head of communications John Nagle told the BBC's website.

"It's the point at which professional football decides it has to get organised or be strangled at birth."

The inaugural season kicked off with 12 teams -- Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Stoke, Blackburn, Notts County, Everton, Accrington, Bolton, Derby, Preston and Burnley -- in September 1888 and was won by Preston, who went through the 22-match season unbeaten and became known as the Invincibles.

By the time McGregor, who also first suggested the idea of a league table, died aged 65 in 1911, football had already won a place in the hearts of the English sporting public.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/football-who-are-you-scot-secretary-built-english-template