Arsenal vs Arsenal Reserves (lost footage of early BBC televised football match; 1937)

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The Arsenal teams posing for the television camera unit.

Status: Lost

On September 13th, 1937, Arsenal's first and reserve teams competed against each other in a friendly match. This match proved historic, because it was the first instance of a televised friendly football match, being broadcast on BBC television. It is also claimed by some sources as the first football match to be televised live.


Prior to the match, Arsenal Football Club already made media history by being part of the first live football radio broadcast, when it faced Sheffield United in 1927. Ten years later, BBC would again select Arsenal, this time to feature in its relatively new Television Service in order to showcase the platform's ability to show live sport.[1] The reasoning behind this choice centred around Arsenal's Highbury Stadium being the closest football ground to BBC's headquarters at Alexandra Palace, with its East Stand containing a gantry already suitable for cameras.[2] The move was further logical as only a few televisions could receive the Alexandra Palace signal, spanning about ten miles away.[3]

Arsenal's first and reserve teams were selected to face each other in a friendly for the sole purpose of providing a television demonstration. According to the Manchester Guardian, three cameras were used to show the match, two being at the respective goalmouths to show play close-ups and interviews, another being in the stands to show the ground in a more comprehensive manner.[4] The broadcast of the match lasted fifteen minutes, a result of BBC Television Service's limited hour-long daily schedule. George Allison, who was both Arsenal's manager and a BBC radio commentator, would first introduce the players to the television viewers, with the rest of the broadcast dedicated to the match. The schedule labelled the segment as Football at the Arsenal.

Ultimately, the broadcast was deemed a success. Some sources, including the BBC, claim that this match was the first to be televised live. However, others like The Guardian and England Football Online note that the 1937 FA Cup Final was partially televised on 1st May 1937.[2][5] Nevertheless, the BBC would later break further ground in broadcasting live football, including an England-Scotland international game in full on 9th April 1938. Meanwhile, Arsenal would later go on to become the 1937-38 First Division champions.[6] The result of the match was not properly archived and has been lost to time.


Like many other early BBC television broadcasts, the Arsenal-Arsenal Reserves match was broadcast live and was not recorded. Therefore, footage of the match is most likely permanently missing. A few photos of the Arsenal teams posing for a BBC mobile television unit provide the only accessible media of the match. A video featuring an introduction of the team was claimed to have been recorded prior to the broadcast. However, this was debunked by the Woolwich Arsenal blog, which noted that one of the narrators, Herbert Chapman, had already passed away three years earlier.

See Also

Association Football/Soccer Media

Early BBC Sports Television

Early BBC Television

Early Sports Television Media