Football on Film


Britain has a rich history in cinematics with the world’s first moving picture being shot by Frenchman Louis Le Prince in the Yorkshire town of Leeds in 1888. From there, the celluloid film was developed and the first 35mm camera was built and patented.

By the turn of the 20th Century, Blackburn-based filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon were documenting everyday life in Edwardian Britain and their company, Mitchell & Kenyon, would soon become one of the early pioneers of commercial motion pictures. The pair would travel the industrial heartlands of northern England and Wales filming the lives of the working-class, while also producing their own motion pictures such as The Tramp’s Surprise and Kidnapping by Indians.

The outbreak of war in South Africa in 1899 brought new opportunities for the pair and they were soon producing war films and showing them to packed theatre houses around the country.

It is for their documentation of sporting events that they are arguably best known for however. Mitchell & Kenyon captured some of the earliest-known professional football matches, including the very first film of Manchester United, who beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor on 6 December 1902, and also spent time filming clubs including Everton, Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and the famous amateur side, Corinthians.

In addition to Mitchell & Kenyon, the most notable company filming the growth of association football before, during and after the Great War was Pathé News, who were formed in 1910. Now known as British Pathé, the company is widely considered to have the finest newsreel archive in the world and has unrivalled content covering the First World War period. It’s sporting content is especially important and covers both domestic and military football.