Anorak | Ten landmark innovations that shaped football

Ten landmark innovations that shaped football

by | 10th, August 2013

AS Hawk-Eye is launched at the Emirates, bringing goal-line technology to the Barclays Premier League at last, we look back on ten landmark innovations that have shaped the game we know and love.

Goal posts

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Long before jumpers, there were goal posts. Their raison d’être was to indicate where the goal was, but they served another purpose too: a notch was ‘scored’ on them after each goal, hence the phrase ‘score a goal’.

Nowadays posts are round (to allow a true bounce, unlike previous square ones) and white. But there is no actual rule saying they must be white, so in theory they could be painted in a club’s (or sponsor’s) colours, as they have been in the past.

Referee’s whistle

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Refs originally made do with waving a white handkerchief to alert players to their decisions. Nottingham Forest’s accounts refer to the purchase of an ‘umpire’s whistle’ in 1872, and the pea whistle itself dates from the late nineteenth century, when the ACME Whistle Company began manufacturing them for the Metropolitan Police. Whistles were first included in the Laws of the Game in 1936.



Crossbars were introduced in 1875, with both Sheffield FC and Queen’s Park claiming to be the first to do so, and they were made compulsory in 1882. In the preceding period tape had been used. Before tape there was no limit to how high a goal could be scored. It was introduced in 1866 after a game at Reigate when a goal was scored at a height of 90 feet.



Floodlights used as early as 1878, when Bramall Lane staged experimental games under lights, and Thames Ironworks (the precursor to West Ham United) soon followed suit. Herbert Chapman fitted lights under the new West Stand at Highbury in the 1930s, but the Football League didn’t sanction the use of floodlights until 1951. The first official game played under them was at The Dell (pictured) where Southampton Reserves played Tottenham Hotspur Reserves.



JA Brodie patented goal nets in 1890 and they were first used officially the following year by Liverpool ramblers AFC at the Crosby Cricket Ground, and by Nottingham Forest at their Town Ground. A year later they were used in the FA Cup Final between Blackburn Rovers and Notts County (pictured) but it took a while before they really caught on. This 1895 painting shows nets in use during a match between Sunderland and Aston Villa.


Shirt numbers


First worn in Europe on 25 August 1928 (Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal and Chelsea v Swansea). ‘Numbered Jerseys A Success’ was the headline in the Daily Mirror. The rationale was more for the spectators’ benefit than the referee’s, and the numbers were allocated according to position.

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Posted: 10th, August 2013 | In: Key Posts, Sports Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink