History

GGM 40: Highbury stages first live broadcast

Arsenal's history is littered with landmark moments, many of which are not just club-related but also significant to the wider football world.

The legendary manager Herbert Chapman was Arsenal's greatest innovator so it's fitting that he was in charge when Highbury staged the first-ever live radio commentary, heard by listeners to the BBC's World Service.

On January 22, 1927 the BBC - formed the previous year - broadcast the league match between Arsenal and Sheffield United. Charlie Buchan, Arsenal's skipper, scored the first 'live' goal in a 1-1 draw.

The BBC had already experimented with outside broadcast at a rugby match at Twickenham, but the Highbury event pioneered the use of two 'commentators' - one providing a running commentary of the action while the other called out grid references.

The grid references corresponded to a chart published in the Radio Times which divided the pitch into eight numbered segments. Hearing the numbers allowed listeners to locate the position of the ball. This system remained in place until 1939.

Arsenal soon had in their ranks a man who knew all about this new method of communication. Chapman's assistant and eventual successor, George Allison, was the BBC's first regular football commentator.

Allison supplied commentaries for the first live broadcasts of The Derby and the Grand National, and was behind the microphone for the 1927 FA Cup Final when Arsenal lost 1-0 to Cardiff City at Wembley.

Ten years after the BBC's first live commentary, sections of a game between Arsenal and their Reserves were televised. This was the first time a football game had been covered in this way.

Radio Times - 1927

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