Match Of The Day - Britain's Finest

(Posted on 22/08/17)

On this day in football the first ever broadcast of ‘Match of the Day’ was aired. The football highlights show which has now been viewed for 53 years in various forms has been a stalwart in the British television schedule.

It all kicked off on August 22nd 1964 as Kenneth Wolstenholme introduced the programme pitch side at Anfield for Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Arsenal in the old First Division. The first episode only featured the one match on BBC2, a fledgling station which at the time had been launched four months beforehand and reached just 20,000 people in London.  This was what persuaded the Football Association to allow broadcasting due to the English FA’s concern of a drop in attendance at matches due to the television coverage.

Eventually the programme became so popular it was moved to BBC1 and attracted huge viewers. From a show originally set out to help train cameramen ahead of England’s hosting of the 1966 World Cup it went on to become an institution.

As the 1970’s rolled by it was attracting up to 12,000,000 viewers and footballers eventually became superstars. Legendary Manchester United attacker George Best once said that “if I knew the cameras were there, I’d try and do things to make people laugh.

“To me it was theatre, it always has been and I wanted to act up in front of the people and they loved it”.

In August 1970 the first ever use of the Match of the Day theme tune that we know and love today was used, surprising as many believe it was always the song used. In the 1980's it actually spent six weeks away from the programme and was replaced, before being re-instated after mass protest to the show.

Following a fierce battle with ITV for rights to show the football, MOTD had a brief spell away from our screens in the late 1970’s but would eventually return. Since the early 80’s it been almost constant in British homes apart from three seasons in the early 2000’s when the rights to the Premiership were bought by ITV, but that brief omission saw the programme come back stronger.

Match of the Day has had some of the greatest commentators of all time over the years including of course the legend that is John Motson. Never seen too far away from a sheepskin jacket, ‘Motty’ has been working for the BBC programme for over 40 years. Presenter David Coleman took over from Wolstenholme who was the original presenter and took it to new levels whilst commentators such as Barry Davies who’s famous “interesting, very interesting!” line was the soundtrack to a generation of football fans growing up.

With the best indepth analasys from ex-professionals such as the impecable Gary Lineker who's presented the show since the 90's, Alan Hansen, Jimmy Hill, Alan Shearer and numerous others, it became a trendsetter for other shows which would crop up following it's success. Many of the guests and presenters have very strong opinions and have been known to have egg on their face at the end of each season. Lineker said during the 2015/16 season that if Leicester City win the league he'd present MOTD in his pants, and in August 2016 during the new season that's what he did. But the most famous came in 1995 as Alan Hansen blurted the famous line 'you'll never win anything with kids' following Manchester United's 3-1 loss to Aston Villa. That young class of '92 side went on to win the Premier League with Beckham, Giggs, Butt, Scholes and the Neville's, who'd famously complete the treble four years later.

 

With money from the likes of Sky and BT now flooding the game and media empires looking to rule the roost in terms of football broadcasting, it’s safe to say this half-century old football programme still leads the way as soccer’s premium programme. 

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