Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

The Evolution of TV Cameras in Football

Football is without a doubt one of the most popular sports in the world, captivating millions of fans with its thrilling matches. Over the years, television has played a significant role in bringing the excitement of football directly to our living rooms. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of TV cameras in football and how the industry has evolved to meet the demands of passionate fans.

The First TV Cameras at Football Matches

early tv camera 1952

The exact moment when TV cameras were first introduced in football stadiums is difficult to determine. Extensive testing and experimentation had to be conducted before companies were confident enough to showcase live matches to the world. Surprisingly, the very first live football match broadcasted on television took place in 1937. On September 16th, the BBC aired a match between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves, marking a historic milestone in football broadcasting. However, live football broadcasts remained limited during the early years of television. Only FA Cup matches and occasional internationals were shown live. It wasn’t until 1960 that a First Division match was televised live for the first time. This game between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers, which ended in a 0-0 draw, marked a significant shift in the broadcasting of football matches.

The Development of Football Broadcasts


The 1960s saw a major leap in football broadcasting, with the debut of “Match of the Day” on the BBC in 1964. Prior to this, viewers were limited to occasional internationals and FA Cup finals. The 1966 World Cup was a turning point, as it was broadcasted globally, expanding football’s popularity on a global scale. In the past, most live football coverage consisted of highlights packages shown on ITV and the BBC. The live broadcast of the World Cup established it as a “must-see” event. The Football League initially hesitated to broadcast live matches, fearing it would affect attendance. It wasn’t until the 1980s that regular live broadcasts of football matches became more common due to financial struggles within the game.

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The Move Towards Regularly Televised Football

TV Cameras

In the 1980s, the Football League sold the rights to broadcast matches to the BBC for a nominal fee. As the desire for more football and the associated revenue grew, the rights fees increased exponentially. A 1983 deal allowed the BBC to show live matches on Fridays, while ITV gained the rights to broadcast Sunday afternoon games. This lucrative deal, worth £2.6 million annually, benefited both parties. However, the commercialization of sports in America inspired English clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United to seek a larger share of the revenue. In 1990, Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB began persuading viewers to tune into their channels, leading to the birth of the Premier League in 1992. This significant development allowed Sky Sports to be innovative in their live match coverage, consistently negotiating new broadcast rights.

Interesting Moments in Football Broadcast History

Ben Sutherland

Alongside the evolution of football broadcasts, various technological advancements have shaped the way matches are presented to viewers. Let’s explore some of the most significant moments in football broadcasting:

The Move to Colour

Shift to Colour TV

The transition from black and white to colour television broadcasts was a landmark moment for football coverage. The BBC made history in 1969 when they showed a match between Liverpool and West Ham in colour on Match of the Day. Despite this breakthrough, most viewers still owned black and white televisions. Commentators, such as John Motson and Ted Lowe, had to be mindful of this distinction and frequently mention the colours of teams’ kits during their live commentary.

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Slow Motion

Slow-motion replays have become an integral part of modern football coverage, providing detailed analysis and enhancing the viewing experience. This groundbreaking technology was first introduced in the United States in 1961 and gradually made its way across the Atlantic. The addition of slow-motion replays allowed commentators to closely examine and explain critical moments to the audience, revolutionizing football coverage.


Skycam in Football

SkyCam, a suspended camera controlled by a computer system, transformed the way football matches are broadcasted. Invented by Garrett Brown, the mind behind the Steadicam, SkyCam debuted in 1984 during a National Football League match in the United States. Its unique ability to move through three dimensions provided viewers with captivating angles that static cameras couldn’t achieve. The Steadicam itself revolutionized football coverage, allowing cameramen to capture dynamic shots along the touchlines, immersing viewers in the heart of the action.

3D Football

While High Definition broadcasts gained widespread acceptance, 3D football broadcasts failed to capture the same audience appeal. In 2010, Sky Sports attempted to broadcast a match between Arsenal and Manchester United using 3D technology. Initially, only viewers in specially equipped pubs could enjoy the 3D experience. However, it received mixed reviews, with some fans describing it as resembling a “popup book” and suggesting that the technology was better suited for boxing matches.

360 Degree Coverage

360 Degree Football

The introduction of 360-degree coverage provided football fans with a virtual reality experience, giving them the feeling of being present at the stadium. The BBC showcased this innovative technology during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, allowing viewers to explore the stadium from the comfort of their homes. This immersive experience allowed fans to focus on specific areas of interest, offering a new level of engagement. While 360-degree coverage was first used by Liverpool and Lille in 2016, its future popularity remains uncertain compared to traditional broadcast options.

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1. When was the first live football match broadcasted on television?

  • The first live football match broadcasted on television was on September 16, 1937, between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves.

2. When did football matches start being broadcasted live regularly?

  • The broadcasting of football matches live on a regular basis began in the 1980s due to financial struggles within the game.

3. Who invented the SkyCam?

  • The SkyCam was invented by Garrett Brown, the same person who developed the Steadicam.

4. When did football matches start being shown in colour?

  • Football matches started being shown in colour in 1969 when the BBC broadcasted a match between Liverpool and West Ham on Match of the Day.

5. What is the significance of 360-degree coverage?

  • 360-degree coverage allows viewers to watch football matches in a virtual reality setting, providing an immersive experience that makes them feel as though they are present at the stadium.


The history of TV cameras in football is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of sports broadcasting. From the first live match in 1937 to the introduction of colour, slow-motion replays, and innovative camera technologies, football coverage has continuously pushed boundaries. As technology advances, we can only anticipate more exciting developments that will further enhance the way we watch and experience the beautiful game.

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