The first football match that was broadcast live on t' wireless  was a First Division League match that was played in January 1927 between Arsenal and Sheffield United. The venue was Highbury and it took place a week after the first ever Rugby broadcast (England v Wales - Twickenham). The BBC schedule proudly announced that on Saturday afternoon

"2.5 Community singing and Arsenal v Sheffield United Association Football Match (relayed from Arsenal ground, Highbury)"

The match was to be described by Mr. H.B.T. Wakelam with local colour provided by Mr. C.A. Lewis. Some papers including the Radio Times published a plan of the pitch divided into eight sectors. The idea was that Lewis would call out the number of the section the ball was in, whilst his co-commentator Wakelam described the action. From the accounts of the time the broadcast was a great improvement on the earlier Rugby commentary. The following Monday's edition of the Manchester Guardian gave a summary of the broadcast


The broadcast of running commentaries of the Arsenal v Sheffield United match at Highbury on Saturday afternoon was more successful than that from Twickenham the previous week. In the Rugby match listeners only heard one commentator whereas on Saturday there were two, and with the aid of the plan of the ground issued by the B.B.C. and their information it was possible to follow fairly closely the movements of the ball.

One commentator gives listeners a graphic description of the game while the other called out the section in which the ball was actually being played - 

"Oh! pretty work, very pretty (section 5) up field (7).. a pretty (5,8) pass.. come on Mercer.. Now then Mercer; hello! Noble's got it (1,2)"

With the chart before one, it was fairly easy to visualise what was actually happening and the cheers and the groans of the spectators help considerably the imagination of the listeners..... 

The Times agreed with the Guardian's review and praised the commentary for it's vivid and impressive descriptions of play throughout the game. In fact the the initiative remained a part of broadcasting for many years and has, unfortunately, enjoyed something of a resurgence recently with the advent of the "summariser" 

Oh and the score  - it was a 1 - 1 draw with Billy Gillespie scoring for the Blades.

As a footnote the 1927 F. A. Cup Final between Arsenal and Cardiff City was broadcast live from Wembley to homes all around the country. The commentators for the Final were George Allison who was later to become Arsenal's manager and Derek McCulloch who was later to achieve fame as "Uncle Mac" in B.B.C. Radio's Children's Hour    


The Daily Telegraph

The Manchester Guardian

Sheffield United The First Hundred Years - Denis Clarebrough

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This page was last updated on 26/07/10 11:08