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History Of Football On TV

A brief history of football on TV and football broadcasting in the UK.

Early Days

Football was first screened on television in the UK in 1937 by the BBC who broadcast a specially-arranged friendly between Arsenal v Arsenal Reserves at Highbury. The broadcast was only available to a handful of homes in close proximity to Alexandra Palace. In 1938 international football and the FA Cup final were shown for the first time with the BBC providing coverage of England v Scotland and Huddersfield Town v Preston North End.

The first FA Cup match shown, that wasn’t a final, was broadcast in 1947; it was a FA Cup fifth-round match between Charlton Athletic v Blackburn Rovers.

In 1954 the World Cup was broadcast live in the UK for the first time. In 1955 ITV started broadcasting live matches from the newly-formed European Cup and the BBC also began broadcasting Soccer Special which showcased matches from the old Division One.

Football League On TV

In 1960 the first live broadcast from the Football League was made by ITV when Blackpool played Bolton Wanderers at Bloomfield Road; the match kicked-off at 6:50pm, but the live broadcast didn't start until 7:30pm to allow fans who attended a 3pm kick-off to view the match at home.

In 1964 the BBC broadcast Match of the Day for the first time and the first match shown was Liverpool v Arsenal. In 1969 Match of the Day first broadcast a match in colour: a game at Anfield between Liverpool v West Ham.

In 1970 the FA Cup final between Chelsea v Leeds United was watched by a record audience of 20 million people.

In 1983 the first live match from the Football League since 1960 was screened on ITV: Tottenham Hotspur v Nottingham Forest. The BBC also showed its first live match from the Football League: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.

Premier League Era

In 1992 Sky acquired the rights to broadcast live fixtures from the newly-formed Premier League in a deal worth £304 million. Channel 4 also began broadcasting live Italian Serie A football on its Football Italia show presented by James Richardson. Sky kicked off the Premier League era by broadcasting its first live Premier League match between Nottingham Forest v Liverpool.

In 1995 Sky acquired live rights to the English Football League, League Cup and the Scottish Football League.

In 1997 Manchester United launched MUTV, the first channel dedicated to a single football club in the UK.

In 1999 ITV acquired exclusive live rights to broadcast the Champions League in a deal worth £299 million. In 2001 ITV began broadcasting the Championship (a Premier League highlights show). ITV also acquired the rights to broadcast live matches from the Football League on its newly re-branded ITV Sport channel, in a deal worth £315 million. In 2001 Chelsea launched their dedicated club channel Chelsea TV.

In 2002 ITV Digital collapsed still owing £178.5m to the Football League; Sky subsequently acquired ITV Digital’s live rights. ITV and Sky won the race for Champions League rights despite stiff competition from the BBC; Sky and ITV paid £83m a year between them after the rights package was restructured at the behest of EU competition authorities.

In 2007 Setanta Sports broke Sky'sPremier League monopoly by broadcasting its first live Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool. Jacqui Oatley became the first woman to commentate on a televised football game when she covered Fulham v Blackburn Rovers on Match of the Day. Liverpool launched their official club channel LFC TV. In 2008 Arsenal launched their official club channel Arsenal TV.

In 2009 BBC acquired shared rights to broadcast live matches from the Championship and Carling Cup. The UEFA Europa League was introduced and was broadcast by Five, ITV and ESPN. Setanta Sports defaulted on a payment for their 2009/2010 Premier League TV rights and lost their rights to ESPN (Setanta Sports would later go into administration).

In 2010 Sky were the first to broadcast a live Premier League game In 3D. FIFA announced that 25 live games from the 2010 World Cup would be made available for broadcast in 3D.

In June 2012 BT made headlines by securing eighteen first-pick Premier League TV matches from 2013/2014. BT secured 38 live Premier League TV games a season for 2013-2014 / 2015-2016, compared to Sky's total of 116 live matches a season. BT Sport was launched in May 2013 with the announcement that the channel would be free to all BT Broadband customers. Later in 2013 BT Sport acquired exclusive live rights to show UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League from 2015-2016 / 2017-2018.

In August 2015 BT Sport launched Europe's first Ultra HD/4K TV channel and its first live broadcast was Arsenal v Chelsea in the Community Shield.

In 2018 Amazon broke Sky and BT Sport's stranglehold on Premier League TV rights by securing the rights to stream 20 live matches online from 2019/20. Eleven Sports also entered the UK market by clinching exclusive deals for La Liga and Serie A.