Incredible to relate, but the first essays in floodlit sport actually preceded Edison’s invention of a practical incandescent lightbulb by a year. On October 14th, 1878, 20,000 spectators turned up for the first floodlit football match in history, held at Bramall Lane. Eight days later, rugby, in the form of Richmond, followed suit. On November 30th, Notts County lit up Trent Bridge for a match against Derbyshire.
It seems to have worked out reasonably well, well enough for the nascent Football League to make a specific decree forbidding the use of floodlighting at matches. Non-league clubs continued to experiment – West Ham, under owner Albert Hills, played a significant number of floodlit matches in Canning Town between 1895 and 1898, using 10 lights each of 2000 candlepower, which produced a bluish haze of light in which the ball, dipped in whitewash and periodically replaced, could be seen without difficulty.
1878 was the year that Queen Victoria had the telephone demonstrated to her: the year that Joseph Hudson invented the referee’s whistle (six years before he invented the Acme Thunderer). The first non-stick typewriters were just beginning to make it across the Atlantic from Remington.
You can almost feel the modern world physically trying to emerge.
And you can hear it too, because 1878 was also the year of the phonograph, and, putting two of the as-yet barely-functioning inventions together, here’s the first attempt at a speaking clock.
It’s a wonder that they didn’t attempt football commentary.