John Logie Baird gave the world's first public demonstration of a working television system on 26 January 1926 at his laboratory in London. The BBC started its television service in 1936 and carried out its first experiment in covering football on 16th September 1937 when it broadcast part of a specially arranged game that took place between Arsenal and Arsenal Reserves. This was followed by showing the international match, between England and Scotland on April 9, 1938.
The first-time a whole match was shown live on television was the 1938 FA Cup Final when Preston North End played Huddersfield Town. Even so, far more people watched the game in the stadium as only around 10,000 people at the time owned television sets.
For technical reasons, only games in London could be shown on television. This included FA Cup finals and the occasional international game played at Wembley. On 8th February, 1947, the BBC also showed a fifth round FA Cup match between Charlton Athletic and Blackburn Rovers. However, this experiment of showing cup games other than finals was quickly abandoned.
Although the Football Association allowed international games to be shown on television, the Football League was always reluctant to allow either highlights or live coverage of league matches as it feared it would have a negative impact on attendances.
The ITV agreed a deal with the Football League to show 26 live league games in the 1960-61 season. The first live league match was on September 10, 1960 between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers at Bloomfield Road. The next planned broadcast was cancelled after Tottenham Hotspur refused permission for the ITV to cover its game against Aston Villa. When the Football League demanded a dramatic increase in player appearance payments the ITV pulled out of the deal.
The first televised league highlights started in 1962, when Anglia Television launched Match of the Week, which showed highlights of matches from the East Anglia region. In 1964 the Football League agreed a deal with the BBC to show edited highlights of First Division games. Match of the Day began in August 1964 when it showed the game between Arsenal and Liverpool.
The first World Cup coverage on television took place in 1966. Two years later ITV regions began broadcasting its own highlights programmes. Eventually, the entire ITV network showed The Big Match on Sunday.
It was clear that there was potentially a large audience for live football games and in 1983 ITV obtained a two-year contract from the Football League to show live matches for £5.2m. A four-year deal in 1988 cost £44m. There was clearly large sums of money available for showing live First Division games. The top clubs felt that they deserved a greater percentage of this money and Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton threatened to form their own Super League.
In 1992 it was agreed to establish the FA Premier League. The new league was almost identical to the old Football League Division One. The main change was that its clubs would keep all TV revenues. Sky TV, owned by Rupert Murdoch, paid £304m over five years to show a large number of these games live. In 1997 this contract was renewed for £650m.
On 23rd April, 2007, Jackui Oatley became the first woman to commentate on a televised football game when she covered the Fulham v Blackburn Rovers match on the BBC's Match of the Day programme.