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Sport owes plenty to the West Midlands - with much of what we know and love coming to life in the region!


The birth of the Football League

  • The Football League - the first league for football in the world - has links with Aston Villa and in particular William McGregor.
  • McGregor, a Scotsman, was a significant figure at Villa and served as the club's vice-president and then chairman and he was the first to suggest that clubs play competitive matches against each other and not just friendlies.
  • Twelve clubs founded the Football League under his direction - including Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers from the West Midlands.


Lawn tennis comes to life

  • Lawn tennis, now showcased on the global stage every year at Wimbledon, has its roots in Birmingham.
  • Harry Gem was a member and club secretary of Bath Streets Rackets Club, who became frustrated at the expense of the indoor sport. He met Spanish merchant Juan Bautista Augurio Perera and the pair created a new sport, known as lawn rackets or lawn tennis.
  • They played against each other for the first time on the croquet lawn at Perera's house in Edgbaston - this was said to have taken place in 1859.


William Webb Ellis and the creation of rugby

  • Rugby football takes its name from Rugby School in Warwickshire, where the sport has been played in various guises for centuries.
  • According to legend, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a game of football in 1823 which helped lay the foundations for the sport's creation.
  • Pupils at the school traditionally came up with the rules for the games they were playing, which would change with each new intake.
  • It was not until 1845 that a set of written rules was created by three students.
  • A number of teams then began to play based on the Rugby School rules.
  • In 1871, the first laws of the game were drawn up by three lawyers who had been Rugby School pupils.


The Jewellery Quarter and Famous Sporting Trophies

  • A number of famous sporting trophies and medals were made in Birmingham's acclaimed Jewellery Quarter.
  • This includes the trophies awarded to both the men's and women's singles champions at Wimbledon - which ties in nicely with Birmingham being the place where lawn tennis was invented.
  • An early incarnation of the FA Cup - the oldest football competition in the world - was also made in the Jewellery Quarter.
  • Aston Villa won the trophy in 1895 but it was stolen from a shop window where it had been put on display.
  • The club was ordered to fund a replacement and they chose Jewellery Quarter business Vaughton & Sons.
  • This version was used until 1910, with Vaughton still existing today.
  • The company has also made medals for the Premier League and the London 1908 Olympics.
  • Another Olympic link can be found in the Jewellery Quarter as the Torches for the London 1948 Games were made by Birmingham designer Bernard Cuzner. The London 2012 Olympic Torches were made by a firm from Coventry.
  • Lonsdale belts given to British boxing champions have also been made in the Jewellery Quarter, by Thomas Fattorini.

For more information about the West Midlands’ sporting offer, visit https://www.insidethegames.biz/west-midlands-growth-company and https://www.meetbirmingham.com/major-sporting-events

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