By Tony Attwood
It is, of course, so easy today. If you want to know a score you can see it on TV at any time, both through teletext on the BBC and through Sky Sports News.
If you are at the match at the Ems you can wait until half time or full time, and the scores will come up on the screens. Matches played before ours are shown on the screens around the stadium.
But, it was not always thus.
I have been trying to put a picture together of just how we used to get the scores in the past. I have not as yet found any article that specifically covers the subject, so thought it might be a good one for the series in the club programme – but I need the facts. And I am hoping you might help.
Here’s what I recall so far:
1960s to 1980s: Supporters used to take their radios (known then as “transistors”) to games. “Trannies” had made radios much smaller than before and I can remember many having the sets held to the ear to catch scores on the Light Programme, and then later Radio 2, and then Radio 5.
Highbury – before the all seater stadium: We had two sets of A to Z lettering – one in the north east corner and one in the south west. Each letter represented a match, and which match was which was written in the programme. Towards the end of half time someone would creep through the tunnel behind the letters and insert the numbers for the scores. There were groans and cheers according to the results as they went up.
I think that for one of the celebrations (75 years at Highbury maybe) the process was re-introduced and people could apply for the right to insert the numbers for a game or two.
Sports Report. This goes back as far as my memory of football – a 5pm programme on the Light Programme, with the results read out with deep solemnity and then reports on a few of the games (rarely Arsenal I seem to recall). Football was just one of the many sports covered. I am not sure when second half commentary of matches was added, but that was just one match, and it was very much the second half only. I think commentary all the way through a game came in the 1980s. Because of the size of radios in the days of battery operated sets, it was never an option to take one to a game until the 1960s. Radio 5 still uses the same theme tune.
“All the half times; 3.30 winners”. I certainly remember leaving Highbury to the shouts of the newspaper vendors who sold the Saturday Edition of the Evening Standard, which they claimed had all the half times and the race results for the 3.30pm races – although I have no idea where. I’m not sure when the Standard finished publishing a saturday edition, but when they did it was a prime source of information.
The report edition would come out by about 6.30 and then be rushed across London in Standard vans, with the drivers chucking the copies out to the news vendors and shops – no one actually got out of the cab to deliver them for time was of the essence.
The reports included some detail of the first half, but the second half was nothing more than three lines telling you who scored. A picture, if there was one, would be from early in the match. (This in itself is an interesting Highbury memory. The photographer would take the picture, and then remove the plate and give it to a runner who would walk around the pitch and (I believe) get on his motorbike and drive off to the newspaper with it.)
Highbury – before the A to Z codes. I am told (but it was before my time) that people walked around the ground with a board showing the half times. True or not – anyone know?
The Manor Ground. I had always assumed that people got the results in the 19th and early 20th century from the newspapers a day or two later – but it seems not. Research by Mark Andrews has uncovered the fact that telegrams were sent from Woolwich Arsenal away games to a pub outside the ground, and the score was read out – not just at half time and the end, but during the game itself.
I have looked a copies of the Times from the era and they carried results from the start of the league days, but little more. They also always put the winning club first in the early days, and then followed the score by the venue (as in Woolwich Arsenal 12 Loughborough 0 (at Woolwich).
So that’s about it so far. Please do help me fill in the gaps.