And there it was, gone. BBC Radio 5 Love quietly dropped its reading of the classified football results last Saturday as part of the station’s shakeup to accommodate its broadcasting of a Premier League game each week that kicks off at 5.30 between two teams of overpaid footballers that no one is particularly bothered about other than those in that particular stadium.
When football was football, all matches kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday and listening to the signature tune for Sports Report and the reading of the football results was a ritual, providing fans with a comprehensive survey of what had gone in all the leagues no matter how lofty or lowly in status. There would be a groan when the news that a certain result was not yet in, suggestive of some late drama or the phone lines from one of the darker reaches of the country had gone down. Fans would rush to their cars to be certain to catch the dulcet tones of James Alexander Gordon or congregate in reverent silence around a chap in an anorak on the station platform who would obligingly turn his transistor radio up for the reading.
Of course, the primary purpose of the service which started in the 1950s was to let punters check their football coupons – remember those? – and the ubiquity of smartphones and apps means that anyone anywhere can get up to the minute scores of any match anywhere, but there seemed to be an air of authority and inevitability about a result announced on the Beeb. Hearing them required concentration and they seemed to stick in the memory. There was a curious sort of kudos to be earned in the evening when you were able to answer the inevitable query about the fortunes of Cowdenbeath that day.
Following on from the closure of the last of the Saturday evening sports papers, the ending of the classified football results is another moment when leagues outside of the Premier are starved of the oxygen of publicity. It is an own goal of gigantic proportions from an organization that purports to be a public service and needs to be shown the red card.