was made at Highbury on Saturday January 22nd 1927
when the First Division fixture between Arsenal and Sheffield United
became the first football match to be broadcast live on the radio. Just
three weeks after the BBC had received its Royal Charter which allowed it
to broadcast coverage of major sporting events, Henry Wakelam became the
first football commentator. In order to help the listener follow the play
the Radio Times printed a numbered grid of the pitch with Wakelam
giving grid numbers in his commentary. Arsenal's Charlie Buchan scored the
first broadcast goal, the match ending 1-1 in front of a 16,831 Highbury
At the end of that season Arsenal
were involved in another first with the first radio broadcast of an FA Cup
Final. Cardiff beat Arsenal 1-0 in that final, on Saturday April 23rd
1927, to become still the only non-English side to win the competition.
Ten years later, on Thursday
September 16th 1937, when television broadcasting was very much in
its infancy Highbury again staged a notable first, the first live TV
broadcast of a football match. This time it was an all-Arsenal affair with
the first team playing the reserves in a match arranged to test the
cutting-edge technology of the time. Not that many people saw it with only
a few thousand TVs in the whole country at the time but, as they say, the rest is
The first attempt to
offer the British TV public regular live League football started – and
finished – on 10th September 1960 when ITV broadcast the Saturday evening
fixture between Blackpool and Bolton. In 1953 those two clubs contested a
famous Cup Final but by 1960 they were both struggling in the First
Division and the fixture was missing its star player – Stanley Matthews –
because of injury. It was a dismal match with poor TV ratings and the
following Saturday (17th) Arsenal refused permission for their
match against Newcastle to be televised as did Spurs the week after that
(24th) for their match against Aston Villa. As a result ITV
abandoned the project which was planned to last for 26 matches and nearly
a quarter of a century passed before there was another live League match
on British TV – Tottenham v Nottingham Forest - on 2nd October 1983.
'Welcome to Match of the Day, the
first of a weekly series on BBC 2. This afternoon we are in Beatleville....'
So started the first Match of
the Day which was broadcast on Saturday August 22nd 1964. Only the
highlights of one match was shown - Liverpool v Arsenal - and it's
audience on BBC2 was estimated at less than 100,000 because of the
difficulty in tuning in to that channel at the time. Two years later it
proved popular enough to move to BBC1.
The first MOTDs were of course in
black and white. The first colour transmission was on 15th November 1969
at Anfield when Liverpool beat West Ham 2-0. At the time colour TVs were
still rare so the commentators had to ensure that their commentaries were
suitable for viewers with either colour or black and white sets. That
caused problems. John Motson once famously said
"For those of you watching in black
and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip” Colemanballs
Yet another TV first for Arsenal
came at the Emirates on Sunday January 31st 2010. Their 3-1 home Premier
League defeat against Manchester United was the world's first live sports
event to be broadcast in 3D. The experimental Sky broadcast was beamed to
9 pubs to test the technology and public opinion.
So, what wouldn't you make freely
available to an alcoholic ex-footballer about to appear in a chat show on
live national television? I'm sensing that most of you have got the right
alcohol! Sadly those in charge of the hospitality area prior to George
Best appearing on the Wogan chat show in September 1990 didn't
think along the same lines. When Best appeared on set he was clearly
drunk. What followed was certainly memorable television, although for all
the wrong reasons. The conspiracy theorists have it that the BBC
intentionally plied him with drink to get the outcome that would give a
ratings boost to the Wogan show. Whatever the truth it resulted in
a sad episode in the troubled life of a player of genius.
"Welcome to Bologna on
Capital Gold for England versus San Marino with Tennent's Pilsner,
brewed with Czechoslovakian yeast for that extra Pilsner taste, and
England are one down." Jonathan Pearce on radio's Capital Gold showing where the
economic realities are!
Paul Gascoigne is another who
should have been kept well away from alcohol before appearing on the box.
To be fair when he made an appearance on Question of Sport alcohol was banned. But one of the team captains, Ian Botham, played one
of his practical jokes on the footballer and convinced Gazza that Advocat
was non-alcoholic and plied him with the drink. By the time Gascoigne
realised that it was indeed very alcoholic he was past caring. Gazza and
'Beefy' were in the same team - they finished second!
The biggest TV audience in British broadcasting history was for a
football match. The British Film Institutes has estimated that the 1966
World Cup Final between England and West Germany had a TV audience of 32.3
million, 200,000 more than watched the second-placed event, Princess
Diana's funeral in 1997. The next most watched football match was the 1970
FA Cup final replay between Chelsea and Leeds United played at Old
Trafford. An estimated 28.49 million watched that one which ranks as the
6th most watched event in British TV viewing history, just ahead of
Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981 but just behind the Apollo 13
splashdown in 1970.
So, was it the formation of the Premier League in 1992
that did most to change the English game? Or was it the fact that in the
same year Sky bought their first TV rights? In what seems like a bargain
now they won the right to broadcast live Premier League games for five
years for £304 million (later reduced to £190 million because of lack of
foreign sales). The first match they televised was Nottingham Forest's 1-0
home victory over Liverpool on Sunday August 16th 1992, the second day of
Premier League fixtures. Within 10 years Sky were paying over £1 billion
for a three year deal and football was certainly never the same again!
Greaves perhaps became as well known for his catchphrase It's a funny
old game! as he once was for his deadly goalscoring but it wasn't him
who first coined the phrase - well not the real him anyway! From 1984 to
1996 Spitting Image was one of the top comedy shows on TV,
featuring puppet caricatures of celebrities of the time with Greaves being
one of them. Central TV had the idea of having the real Jimmy Greaves
interviewed by his Spitting Image puppet and during the interview
it was his puppet that first used the phrase. So perhaps not surprisingly
it was the puppet who was the brains behind the phrase rather than the man
himself. The voice of the puppet was provided by none other than Harry
Spurs made history in the 1960/61 season when they won
the first League/FA Cup double of the 20th Century but their captain,
Danny Blanchflower, had made history himself earlier in the season. On
February 6th 1961 he became the first person to turn down an invitation
from Eamonn Andrews to appear on BBC's This Is Your Life - and he
did it live on air!
He said 'I consider the programme to be an invasion of
privacy.....nobody is going to press gang me into anything.'
Seems a long time ago now but do you remember those
pre-internet days when to find a latest score or a result the only way you
could do it was to get the TV zapper out and go to Teletext?
Alex Ferguson retired from management he obviously used his time wisely as
when his autobiography was published in October 2013 it became a
record-breaking seller. By selling 115,547 copies of the book in its first
week it became the UK's quickest selling non-fiction book since records
began in 1998. Tony Blair's memoirs had only managed to sell 92,000 copies
in its first week while even the top Royal best-seller was bettered - Paul
Burrell's A Royal Duty only sold 77,000 copies. The only other
football book in the top five at the time was David Beckham's
autobiography My Side in number 4 spot with sales of 86,000
although to be fair the previous record holder, with 112,000 of first-week
sales, did have a football connection. It was Delia, of Norwich City fame,
with a cook book!
It's not unusual to
see football-related ads during the commercial breaks but few can
really be called classics. Perhaps one of those few is the Ian Rush/who
has ever heard of Accrington Stanley ad run by the Milk Marketing Board in
the 1980s. An eight-year-old Carl Rice gave Accrington - who had dropped
out of the Football League in 1962 - the sort of publicity they
never had when they were in the League. Accrington invited Carl to be
guest of honour at a match in 2006 and later the same year they won their
place back in the Football League. Carl let slip that Accrington weren't
the first choice of club names they planned using - the original plan was
to use Tottenham Hotspur but that idea was dropped when Spurs objected.
But Accrington Stanley was perfect..
10th 1998 saw a new milestone in broadcasting when Manchester United
launched the world's first TV channel dedicated to a single football club
- MUTV. Originally jointly owned by the club, ITV and BSkyB it offered 6
hours a day of all things Manchester United for a monthly £4.99
subscription to a national audience. Now wholly owned by the club the
hours soon went up to 18 a day and the audience has gone viral with most
of the world taking the broadcasts. Launched with a message of 'Get
MUTV, get closer to Manchester United' it was another step in global
domination by the club brand with an estimated 659 million viewers in
2013. And it gave Fergie another broadcaster to fall out with!
When Jimmy Hill had something to say it was generally
worth listening to. So when he came out with these comments in his
programme notes for a Coventry City match in 1965 something important was
about to happen -
When Christopher Columbus was half-way across
the Atlantic Ocean to America, he must have been wondering what he
was going to find (he he had known, he might well have turned back).
Legislators in soccer are looking at tonight's great new venture
into the unknown with the same trepidation.
great new venture was closed circuit television. The Second Division match
between Cardiff City and Coventry City on Wednesday 6th October 1965 was
transmitted to Coventry's Highfield Road ground and watched by the
Coventry faithful on four giant screens. At the time about the only live
football was the FA Cup final and the experiment was well received -
12,639 watched the 'real' match at Ninian Park while another 10,295
watched the televised screening. Because it was a black and white picture
Coventry borrowed the stripped kit of Stoke City to help the viewers
distinguish them from the Cardiff players.
The experiment continued and three
months later London became involved when Millwall's match at Workington
was beamed to The Den but the technology really took off in March 1967. On
Friday 3rd March 1967 the First Division had its first CCTV match when
Arsenal played Manchester United - 63,363 watched the match at Highbury
and another 28,423 at Old Trafford for the screening. Just
over a week
later the first FA Cup tie was screened with even more impressive
attendances. An FA Cup 5th Round tie between Everton and Liverpool saw
64,318 at Goodison and another 40,619 a few hundred yards away for the
screening at Anfield.
The late 60's also saw the likes of Chelsea, Leeds and Manchester United
beam back pictures of away European matches to their respective home
grounds. However despite giving large numbers of fans the opportunity of
watching live away matches most would not normally have been able to
travel to the idea never really took off. It never went away but I guess
with the advent of all top matches now being shown on live TV the thought
of watching matches from the armchair or at the pub was perhaps always
going to be a better option than watching a big tele in the cold!.
At the time Closed Circuit TV was
cutting-edge technology. Coventry's programme notes for the first CCTV
match at Cardiff in 1965 gives an explanation of the science which they
presumably expected to baffle everyone and this I have reproduced below.
Just remember that the internet and mobile phones were science fiction in
those far-off days!
How the picture comes to you tonight..
The picture you will see tonight will have
travelled 300 miles through so many processes that the mind reels as
the technical explanations are poured out. But let me try and
describe this fascinating project in words we can all understand.
The story begins with three standard type
cameras, each selecting a different picture, on the Cardiff Football
Ground. The three pictures are seen simultaneously by the Director
in charge of transmissions, in his operating coach behind the main
stand at Ninian Park.
He chooses the particular picture he wants you
to see at any given time and, as it were, sends it off to Coventry.
The picture leaves Cardiff as a signal and the journey it takes is
through a series of cables and reflectors. The cables run
underground, the reflectors are on towers above the ground and the
signal is bounced from one tower to another.
The route from Cardiff goes first to London
through cable and six above-the-ground reflectors. From London it is
fed into the G.P.O. trunk cable and received in Birmingham. From
Birmingham the signal is transmitted and received by another
reflector in Coventry and is bounced to yet another reflector,
attached to one of the floodlighting towers, here on the ground. The
signal is then fed into an amplifier, to increase the strength, and
split into five sources - four to the projectors which supply the
screens, and the other to the engineer, who is continually checking
the line for quality and technical efficiency.
What happens to the signal when it enters the
projector and how it produces the giant screen picture is well nigh
Briefly what happens is this. The electronic
impulses of the amplified signal are shot through a film of oil. It
is this fine film of oil that forms a transparency which in turn
becomes the projected picture. The temperature of the oil must be
kept constant otherwise the picture will smear.
Now thats a word I have always wanted to include in a football-based
website. Great for Google searches! I can include it because of, in my
opinion, the most
creative of all football headlines was a take on the name of that song in
Mary Poppins. Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious was the headline in the Sun
after an amazing result in the Scottish Cup. Part-time minnows Inverness
Caledonian Thistle visited Parkhead and easily beat mighty Celtic 3-1 in a
Scottish Cup Third Round tie played on Tuesday February 8th 2000. Celtic manager
John Barnes and his assistants Terry McDermott and Eric Black lasted just
two more days in their jobs with Kenny Dalglish becoming manager of the
Having got the above word out of the way I wondered how could I find find a legitimate footballing reason to include
that famous Welsh village Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogoch in the site?
And then the answer came to me - humour! So here goes...
Two football fans from England were travelling through
Wales to attend an away match. Feeling hungry, when they were passing
throughLlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogoch they decided
to stop and get something to eat. One of them said to the waitress "Before
we order, I wonder if you could settle an argument for us. Can you
pronounce where we are, very, very, very slowly?" The girl
leaned over and slowly said, "Burrr … gurrr … kinnnnnng."
Well it made me laugh!
The Super Caley headline is probably the
best-remembered humorous football headline but there have been many more.
My two favourites? Back in the 1971/72 season Crystal Palace player Gerry
Queen was sent off for fighting an opposing player - the newspaper
headline was 'Queen in brawl at Palace'. In April 1979 Nottingham
Forest drew 3-3 with Cologne in the first leg of their European Cup final
with Cologne at the City Ground. The Germans' equaliser was scored by
Yasuhiko Okudera seconds
after he had come onto the pitch with the headlines next day being 'Jap sub sinks
Things didn't go too well
for Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew in the 2013/14 season. In March
2014 he hit the headlines when he head-butted Hull City player David
Meyler in a Premier League match at the KC Stadium and received the
harshest punishment in Premier League managerial history. A £100,000 club
fine was followed by a £60,000 FA fine and a three-match stadium ban
followed by a four-match touchline suspension. Newcastle's form was good
enough at the start of the season but in the new year their form slumped
and Pardew was at the wrong end of criticism from fans and local media.
The club banned three local newspapers from St James' Park accusing them
of 'unbalanced' coverage but one of them - the Sunday Sun - had something
to say about that in a back-page headline. The moral of that - be very
careful when you mess with the local press!
********* It's hardly rare for footballers to stray from their marriage vows and
usually such news hardly merits much newspaper space. Unless, that is,
they challenge the newspapers 'right' to report it. One footballer tried
to do that and obtained a legal 'super-injunction'
preventing anyone publishing details or even talking about his private
life. Inevitably the secret was not kept and when Ryan Giggs was
named by an MP in the House of Commons in May 2011 the publicity
flood-gates opened with stories about his marriage infidelities. Instead
of a small paragraph on page 34 alongside the news that Wayne Rooney had
had a hair transplant Giggs had his name and story on every front page. It
produced another brilliant headline with its take on the Saving Private
Ryan film - Naming Private Ryan - and it was a long time before the papers
The Sun haven't always got
it right with their 'clever' headlines. Following the draw for the 2010
World Cup finals in South Africa they made their instant decision on England's chances on the
front page by naming each country in the group -
Slovenia, Yanks. And The
Sun didn't stop there. In the sports pages the
headline was 'The Best English Group Since The Beatles'. Those
finals in South Africa were many things for England...but EASY was
certainly not one of them!
Taylor must have wished that it was anyone but Sweden who eliminated
England from Euro 92. The England manager had to put up with the Sun
headline - Swedes 2 Turnips 1. And newspapers don't let go. A year
later England had failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals and
Taylor resigned. The Sun kept to their horticultural theme when
they reported on that resignation....
There are some newspaper stories
that you just know are written by a fan of the club being reported on. One
of those headlines came in February 1961 when Manchester United were
slaughtered 2-7 at Old Trafford by Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup tie. A
Man City fan would have a field-day composing a headline after that result
but it was obviously a Reds supporter who got the job. The headline in
that evening's Manchester Evening News was United in nine goal
Some stories are just made for
the newspapers. In
November 1990 Dr George Carey was about to become Archbishop of
Canterbury and Jonathan Sacks was about to become Chief Rabbi. They
were both good friends and passionate Arsenal supporters. It was
decided that their first official ecumenical meeting would take
place at Highbury and off they went together to see Arsenal's
Rumbelows Cup tie with Manchester United. They were duly presented
to the crowd and it was obvious if the power of prayer counted for
anything then Arsenal were certainties to win. They didn't. In fact
they were thumped 6-2 which was their worst home defeat since
pre-war days. The papers obviously
picked this up and a headline the next day read -
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi between them cannot
bring about a win for Arsenal, does this not finally prove that God
does not exist!'
Now that question was never
going to be left unanswered and the Chief Rabbi answered it -
contrary, what it proves is that God exists. It's just the He
supports Manchester United.'
And last, but by no means least, not
all football stories in newspapers are remembered for their humour. Back
in 1989 after the Hillsborough disaster it would be difficult to imagine
anything that could have made the tragedy even
worse, but TheSun newspaper managed it. Their immediate
post-match conclusion was that the tragedy - which was to claim 96 lives -
was the fault of the Liverpool fans themselves. And that's what they put
on the front page. That led to an unprecedented campaign on Merseyside
against TheSun and the Establishment authorities in the belief
that, even after the Taylor inquiry reported, the real reasons had been
ignored. It wasn't until 2012, 23 years after the tragedy, that the truth
finally came out and the Sun amended its front page from 1989. The
2012 editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan, said he was 'deeply
ashamed and profoundly sorry' for what The Sun had to say in
1989. He said
'Twenty-three years ago The Sun newspaper made a terrible mistake. We
published an inaccurate and offensive story about the events at
Hillsborough. We said it was the truth - it wasn't.' Wouldn't it be
great if two lessons were learned from that. First, newspapers should
realise their stories are about real people and can cause real pain if
inaccurate and second as a society how on earth can we find it acceptable
to have to wait nearly a quarter of a century before the truth finally
makes an appearance.
couldn't settle in Italy -
it was like living in a foreign country." Ian Rush
on his spell at Juventus
dozens more hilarious 'foot-in-mouth' quotes click on