Yot doesn’t take much for a medium storm to brew. Take something traditional, ditch it without giving any notice and stand back to assess the damage. Removing the classified football results from the BBC Sports Report program at 5pm on a Saturday was always going to set teeth gnashing up and down the country.
I know I’m possibly a dinosaur who should let go of things like this, but I’m still trying to get over the loss of Teletext, so cut me some slack. Yes, we all have access to football results at our fingertips now. Personally I love the fact that checking the latest scores when out and about has progressed since the 1980s. But there is surely still a space for something as cherished as the classified football results.
People may argue that hardly anyone listens to the results on Sports Report anymore, and that everyone knows the scores when they return to their various modes of transport after a match. If everyone who has been complaining about the culling of this service actually listened at 5pm on a Saturday, it would be the most popular radio slot since we all used to listen to the Top 40 countdown in the 1980s.
But the response speaks volumes about the decision. For some of us, listening to the football results is part of the Saturday football experience. My son, mum and I have season tickets at Boreham Wood. We often return to the car at 5pm, listen to that famous Sports Report theme and begin the journey home listening to the classified results.
Apparently there is not enough time to read the scores between 5pm and the 5.30pm kick-offs that the BBC have acquired rights for on a Saturday. really? It takes about five minutes to get through the list of matches. You don’t need to worry about giving out the score draw numbers anymore – the pools is one tradition we possibly can live without – so why should it be such a hardship to squeeze the football scores into this time span?
Do we really need to hear a couple of interviews where managers spout their usual nonsense? The referee was terrible; VAR is a disgrace; the fans were wonderful; defensively we were awful; we didn’t retain possession enough; you have to take your chances at this level. Snore. I would much rather hear Charlotte Green read out a list of results from across the country than listen to Premier League managers give their views. Why not play those interviews at the half-time interval of the 5.30pm match? Or maybe we could wait until Match of the Day for these words of wisdom.
I have an inkling the BBC will make a U-turn on the classified results. There is a history of this. The theme for Sports Report was accidentally not played on Saturday 5 January 2013 and presenter Mark Pougatch had to make an apology. “It was like the ravens had left the Tower of London – it was like the worst thing you could have ever done,” said Pougatch. Hell hath no fury like a sports fan scorned.
I don’t want to sound like an “in my day” type, but some things from the past should not be touched and the classified football results is one of them. Even in an era when we know plenty of results already, they still brought plenty of joy: the magic of guessing the score from the intonation of James Alexander Gordon and his successors of him; hoping and praying one day to hear East Fife 5, Forfar 4; the beauty of discovering who plays in the JD Cymru Premier League; cheering the result of the match that you’ve just been to; and enjoying the moment again when you hear confirmation that a rival has lost. The classified results were one of the few places left in football where all clubs are equal.
John Motson thinks the BBC has scored an own goal in making this decision. “I’m disappointed because the classified football results have been a radio institution since 1948 and I’m sure a lot of people will miss them terribly,” said Motson. “I grew up listening to the football results at 5pm on a Saturday as a child – they were a benchmark of the day and I don’t agree with this decision.” Hopefully the BBC will go down the other end of the pitch and atone for their error. Then I can check the next time East Fife are playing Forfar.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism