Arsenal take part in numbered shirts experiment 4 December 1933
The introduction of shirt numbers was largely down to the visionary Herbert Chapman. His idea was that it would be easier for players to know where they were on the field in relation to their team-mates.
The earliest record of shirt numbers being worn dates back to August 25, 1928. Arsenal played away at Sheffield Wednesday and lost 3-2.
The numbering system was different to today’s system. One team would wear numbers 1-11 and the other would wear 12-22.
The Football League Management Committee refused to sanction the wearing of numbered shirts for many years, so numbered shirts only rarely appeared and records are sketchy.
However, it is confirmed that Arsenal wore numbered shirts at Highbury on December 4, 1933 as an experiment during a friendly match with F.C Vienna, who included the entire Austrian nation side. Arsenal won 4-2.
The wearing of numbered shirts was still rejected by the Football League Management Committee during the 1934 general meeting.
On July 5, 1939 the committee finally decided that players should wear numbered shirts, but scrapped the old system and introduced the new one, where both teams wear numbers 1-11 with each number decided by position.
Arsenal’s first game at Highbury under this system was on August 30, 1939 - a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.