Supporters following their team’s ups and downs from the comfort of their living room aren’t a new phenomenon. As early as the 1920s, people gathered around their crackly radio sets for live commentaries. Early broadcasts were often hard to make out but the listeners enjoyed hearing the raucous cheers of fans and the noisy stamping of feet in the grandstands. Newspapers said that commentaries gave “a splendid idea of the atmosphere of a big soccer match”.
The first televised match was aired in 1938, offering observers “as good a view of the game as would have been gained from the stands”. Clubs soon began to object, arguing that the TV broadcasts would have a negative effect on gates. But it seemed unlikely that football fans in the 1930s would ever choose to stay at home rather than go to the match. One critic said: “No genuine football fan who could by any possibility reach the ground is likely to prefer his armchair.”