On the Air .

Peter Wors­ley

Evergreen - - Contents - PETER WORS­LEY

At­ten­dances at foot­ball matches peaked in the decade after the last war when there was lit­tle else to do on win­ter Satur­days, for men, women and chil­dren alike. Sta­tis­ti­cally, in smaller towns at least, as much as a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion went to the home match ev­ery fort­night which, when one con­sid­ers the per­cent­age of chil­dren and women in­volved, meant that al­most all able- bod­ied men “went to the match”.

As a re­sult, at 5pm in 1948 came the first strains of the now fa­mil­iar tune “Out of the Blue” which her­alded an ex­cit­ing new pro­gramme cov­er­ing all types of sport, al­though con­cen­trat­ing over­whelm­ingly on foot­ball, the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor for the vast ma­jor­ity of sport­ing en­thu­si­asts.

After some catchy head­lines all was hushed as the re­sults were read out which, for mil­lions, meant check­ing their foot­ball pools to see if they had won £ 75,000, a vast sum of­fered by the two big­gest com­pa­nies Lit­tle­woods and Ver­nons. In re­al­ity, how­ever, the fig­ure was usu­ally shared by all who cor­rectly marked eight draws on their coupon, col­lo­qui­ally known as the Treble Chance. Oc­ca­sional mas­sive win­nings, though, ac­tu­ally made head­line news, an­nounced with great aplomb in the press.

In­di­vid­ual match re­ports dur­ing Sports Re­port came in from all across the coun­try and it was not un­usual for links to be lost or for the reporter to miss his cue or fail to get to the mi­cro­phone in time.

Some in­di­vid­u­als be­came house­hold names, among them the mous­tached fast- talk­ing foot­ball and rac­ing com­men­ta­tor, Ray­mond Glen­den­ning, and the an­chor­men Ea­monn An­drews and Des Ly­nam. An­other man with an­i­mated and al­lit­er­a­tive ways with words when re­port­ing, was Don Davies who, sadly, per­ished in the Manch­ester United Mu­nich air dis­as­ter of 1958.

Other no­table names have in­cluded pre­sen­ters Stephen Gren­fell, Robin Mar­lar, Peter Jones, Mike Ing­ham, John In­verdale, Ian Payne, and lat­terly Mark Chap­man and Mark Pougatch.

John Web­ster was the first clas­si­fied re­sults an­nouncer be­fore hand­ing over in 1974 to the cul­tured Scot­tish voice of James Alexan­der Gor­don, who in turn handed over to Char­lotte Green in 2013. Be­fore the ad­vent of the in­ter­net a sec­ond read­ing of the re­sults took place for “late­com­ers”, ba­si­cally all who had been to a live match, al­most ev­ery one of which had kicked off at 3pm.

Orig­i­nally broad­cast on the Light Pro­gramme, pro­duced by An­gus Mackay, the bouncy sig­na­ture tune of Sports Re­port set a tone of high ex­cite­ment as fans tuned in to see how their team had fared. Many were to be quickly dis­ap­pointed but when the BBC tried to drop the mu­sic Des­mond Ly­nam ap­par­ently stepped in to pre­vent it. More re­cently an im­me­di­ate pub­lic out­cry oc­curred on so­cial me­dia when it briefly went AWOL only for Mark Chap­man to make a hur­ried an­nounce­ment within just a few min­utes to say that it had not been dropped after all.

In 1964 Sports Re­port was moved to the Third Pro­gramme as part of the BBC’s Sports Ser­vice, but in 1970 it re­turned to what is now BBC Ra­dio 2 as part of Sport on 2. In 1990 it moved to the orig­i­nal Ra­dio 5 and from 1994 was on BBC Ra­dio 5 Live as part of Sport on 5, re­named 5 Live Sport in 2006.

No longer, how­ever, do we breath­tak­ingly wait at home for the “Clas­si­fied Foot­ball Re­sults” be­cause the in­ter­net and pre­vi­ous live ra­dio up­dates have ren­dered them vir­tu­ally ob­so­lete. But for those tun­ing into the car ra­dio after watch­ing a live match, how­ever, it is an en­tirely

dif­fer­ent mat­ter. Some of the magic has gone with the march of elec­tronic progress and time but the sig­na­ture tune, espe­cially when wait­ing for the foot­ball re­sults, still sends a shiver down the spine of all who grew up lis­ten­ing to Sports Re­port.

Al­though less fre­netic dur­ing the cricket sea­son, Sports Re­port still begs the ques­tion “How did my team get on to­day?”

Ea­monn An­drews ( left) was a su­perb an­chor­man, as was Des­mond Ly­nam ( bot­tom left), who al­legedly re­sisted the call to aban­don the fa­mil­iar sig­na­ture tune, “Out of the Blue”.

For many years the foot­ball re­sults were read by James Alexan­der Gor­don ( top right), whose dul­cet tones and clear rise and fall of his voice im­me­di­ately sig­nalled a draw, or a home or away win, even be­fore he read the score.

Mod­ern pre­sen­ter Mark Chap­man ( bot­tom right) also dou­bles on BBC Tele­vi­sion’s Match of the Day.

Ray­mond Glen­den­ning gave his name to a sport­ing an­nual through­out the Fifties. An en­thu­si­as­tic and of­ten ex­citable ra­dio com­men­ta­tor he vividly por­trayed what he saw and suc­cess­fully brought sport into the home long be­fore early tele­vi­sion cov­er­age ar­rived on the scene.

Most foot­ball pools were la­bo­ri­ously checked by hand in Liver­pool where an army of women was em­ployed im­me­di­ately after the re­sults were an­nounced.


Lit­tle­woods and Ver­nons Foot­ball Pools were based in Liver­pool, Copes and Zet­ters in Lon­don, Em­pire in Black­pool, Brit­tens in Le­ices­ter and Sher­mans in Cardiff. Many have since merged with hands- on postal en­tries and check­ing re­placed by on­line bet­ting.

Ray­mond Glen­den­ning.

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