This weekend across all platforms this is the sum total of BBC television’s sporting output: Football Focus, Final Score, Match of the Day, The Football League Show, Match of the Day 2, UK Masters Snooker, Ski Sunday. The presence of the snooker will at least mean they can say they’ve put in the hours but for the national broadcaster to be reduced to showing a sum total of three sports and two of them in magazine-style programming suggests something gone very awry indeed.
So the question is: remember Grandstand? I ask because it feels like it was from a bygone age rather than one which lasted until 2007. Grandstand was what I watched on the Saturdays when, for whatever reason, there was no live soccer for me to go and watch. It’s because of Grandstand that I saw hockey, speedway, ice-hockey, horse racing, bowls, swimming, athletics, rugby union, darts, rugby league, figure skating, touring cars, synchronised swimming and no doubt many other sports besides. Very rarely did they get comprehensive coverage (except for the Five Nations rugby union and even then you’d likely only get the country you were viewing from) but they did get shown to an appreciative audience of a couple of million people.
I’m sure the response from the BBC would be: look at Sky. Okay, I will. Sky took the Premier League but Grandstand never showed top division football live. All of the other sports I’ve listed are not regularly shown live by Sky for the competitions that Grandstand used to show. Sky is excellent at a surprisingly broad range of competitions but it is not the reason why the BBC sports department is now obsessed with Premier League (for which it doesn’t have live rights) and a few other big ticket, big event happenings.
Maybe my head is in the sand but I simply cannot believe that resurrecting Grandstand would be expensive compared to the obsession with sending a team of 8 to a Football League match or a 6 Nations international (or keeping Alan Hansen in golf clubs) and I know personally that there are many people out there who would love to switch on and be surprised by Fife Flyers against … some other team in the ice hockey. It would also be an easy way of hitting that public service remit in a way that endless repeats of Cash in the Attic just don’t quite manage.
But enough of the present day misery. Let’s end with the joyous past …