Eighty four years ago, the BBC brought forth onto Britain a new and revolutionary way to experience football. On January 22nd, 1927 a football fixture with live commentary was broadcasted for the very first time.
The honors of this inaugural and groundbreaking event were bestowed upon Arsenal who hosted Sheffield United in a Division One fixture.
The live broadcasting of a match, or any sporting event, (via radio, of course) was long overdue. Owners and management believed if games were to be heard live on the radio, ticket sales would, in contrast, suffer. It was also speculated the “radio” would kill the newspaper star. But that held off for as long as it could.
On January 1st of that year, the BBC were granted its Royal Charter; meaning: it became an autonomous public service broadcaster. As a result, it could now cover major sporting events, with Arsenal/Sheffield to be its first.
Before the event the Radio Times published a grid of a pitch divided into eight quadrants. The idea was that fans could listen to the commentary comfortably from their own home and follow the placement of the ball by referring to the grid.
Unfortunate, the trend did not last long. But, many people believe the phrase, “Back to square one,” originated from this grid and not the kids game, “four squares.”
The honors of becoming the first football broadcaster came to Henry Blythe Thornhill Wakelam, a retired rugby player who was described as, “a natural talker with a reasonable vocabulary, a good rugby mind and a conscious determination to avoid journalese,” reported by the BBC.
The end result of the match as a one all stalemate, but its commentary echoed thought the Kingdom.
The Times praised Wakelam for being, “notably vivid and impressive.” While The Spectator (a UK magazine), prefaced, “That type of broadcasting has come to stay.”