Radio and Football

BBC radio broadcast its first commentary on a professional football match in January 1927 when it featured a game between Arsenal and Sheffield United. Later that year the BBC broadcast the FA Cup Final. By 1931 the BBC was broadcasting over 100 games per season. At this time only about 30% of households owned radios.

The BBC's leading commentator in 1930-31 was George Allison. To help the listener understand what was going on, a diagram was published in the Radio Times which showed a football pitch divided into numbered squares. During the game Allison's assistant would call out the number of the square in which the ball resided.

The Great Depression resulted in a fall in attendances at football matches. Some club chairman partly blamed radio coverage for this situation and in June 1931 the Football League banned all broadcasts of its fixtures. This ban was to continue until after the Second World War.

The Football Association did not share these negative views of radio and during the 1930s every FA Cup Final was broadcast by the BBC. By 1939 about 71% of households owned radios and 8,900,000 licensed sets were in use.