No more Match of the Grey: 43 years on from first colour broadcast, how the nation's favourite football show changed forever
15:48 GMT, 15 November 2012
We all remember the first time we were allowed to sit up late and watch Match of the Day.
It was a rite of passage into what seemed a grown-up world of men in suits and ties exchanging opinions on what had passed at grounds up and down the country that day.
But more excitingly, it guaranteed goals and action and the magic of seeing your heroes in your front room. And that wonderful feeling became even more vivid 43 years ago today.
For the first time, Match of the Day was broadcast in glorious Technicolor on November 15, 1969. What was once a soulless sludge of black and grey now exploded into all the hues of the rainbow as though the curtains had been drawn and the light let in.
First game in colour: Even if photography hadn't quite caught up, Liverpool vs. West Ham United on November 15, 1969 was the first Match of the Day game in colour. In this snapshot, Ron Greenwood (right) checks on the fitness of Billy Bonds
Commentating in Colour: Kenneth Wolstenholme is still in black and white in this photograph, but Match of the Day was in colour by this time
Liverpool 2 West Ham United 0
Saturday November 15, 1969 at Anfield
Liverpool: Tommy Lawrence; Chris Lawler, Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes, Ron Yeats; Ian Callaghan, Peter Thompson, Ian St John, Steve Peplow (Roger Hunt); Bobby Graham, Geoff Strong
West Ham United: Bobby Ferguson; Bobby Moore, Alan Stephenson, Bobby Howe, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard; Ronnie Boyce, Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp; Clyde Best, Geoff Hurst
Goalscorers: Lawler 27, Graham 60
For the first time, viewers could enjoy the fresh green of the pitch, their favourite side’s colours, the tint of the star striker’s hair and the glorious sight of a sea of scarves, banners and rosettes being waved on a swaying terrace.
We take it for granted nowadays – in fact, many of us won’t settle for watching Match of the Day unless it’s in pixel-popping High Definition or even 3D – but we shouldn’t underestimate just what a revolution this was in 1969.
It was in 1966 that the BBC unveiled plans to start broadcasting television programmes in colour. Initially, colour output would be limited to just four hours a week on BBC Two, which had launched in 1964. This would then be gradually cranked up depending on how people reacted.
After all, making the leap into colour wouldn’t be cheap. /11/15/article-2233369-1328A836000005DC-658_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Colour picture of Bobby Moore from 1967″ class=”blkBorder” />
Much better: Match of the Day's switch to colour meant football fans could see heroes like Bobby Moore (left) and Ian St John (right) in full colour for the first time
The match ticked all the boxes – Bill Shankly was slowly but surely moulding Liverpool into the pre-eminent force in English and European football, while West Ham still carried the Spirit of ’66 with Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters in their side, not to mention Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard Sr and Harry Redknapp.
Plus, as MOTD producer Alec Weeks pointed out, Anfield was the kind of noisy and colourful venue you wanted for such an occasion. Indeed, it had been a game between Liverpool and Arsenal on the ground on August 22, 1964 that first launched the programme.
The first Match of the Day in 1964
‘We chose Liverpool for the first colour transmission because we wanted a colourful place,’ Weeks told the Liverpool Echo on the day of the match.
‘There’s nowhere as colourful as Anfield, both literally and in character, with the Kop and their comments.
‘Football in colour is fantastic. Tonight the red and light blue on the green will stand out. Identification of the players is much easier – you can see the colour of their hair, even the blushes if someone is being bawled out!’
Just as there had been a nationwide scramble for black and white television sets and aerials when Match of the Day started out in 1964, the excitement generated by such comments left Merseyside electrical retailers besieged. Everyone wanted to watch the Reds – and everyone else – in full colour.
Better in Technicolour: Liverpool's squad for the 1969-1970 season – Back Row (left to right) Geoff Strong, Gerry /11/15/article-2233369-017AB035000004B0-971_634x725.jpg” width=”634″ height=”725″ alt=”Cutting edge: A customer takes a closer look at a new colour television at the 1967 Ideal Home Exhibition” class=”blkBorder” />
Cutting edge: A customer takes a closer look at a new colour television at the 1967 Ideal Home Exhibition
Viewers saw 35 minutes of colour highlights from Liverpool’s 2-0 win over the Hammers. This was well before clubs were equipped for TV crews and so the Anfield boardroom had to be converted into a makeshift studio. ‘It was a mammoth task,’ said Liverpool secretary Peter Robinson. ‘Extra lighting had to be installed in the boardroom.’
Goals from Chris Lawler and Bobby Graham won the game for Liverpool in a torrid weekend for West Ham. Peters had been forced to return to London on the eve of the match to deal with an urgent family matter and manager Ron Greenwood had call young Scouse trainee Bobby Sutton into the squad.
Sutton was only there for the experience and to see his mum, who worked in the Anfield canteen! He didn’t take part in the game however.
Liverpool finished fifth that season, while West Ham languished in 17th.
West Ham in colour action at Manchester United later in 1969-1970
But football coverage had been transformed forever. There was no turning back for Match of the Day, with every week from then on seeing extensive match highlights in colour.
Gradually, cameras were sent to more and more grounds and other advances such as instant replays added, as more and more people made the switch to colour sets in order to watch this English institution.
A NATIONAL TREASURE: TIMELINE OF MATCH OF THE DAY
1958: BBC screens its first live football match, the FA Cup semi-final between Fulham and Manchester United.
August 22, 1964: First edition of Match of the Day, screened on BBC Two at 6.30pm. Showed highlights of just one match, Liverpool vs. Arsenal at Anfield. The estimated audience was a mere 20,000 because BBC Two was only available in London at the time.
The Original Anfield Cat: The Match of the Day cameras picked up this moggy, who ran the whole length of the Anfield pitch at the first broadcast game between Liverpool and Arsenal in 1964
1965: Match of the Day switches to BBC One to reflect its growing availability and popularity. Several clubs try to block its broadcast, fearing a decline in attendances. A compromise is made when the BBC agreed not to reveal which match would be shown until after the day’s play was concluded.
1967: First competition as ITV starts to show regional highlights of matches on a Sunday afternoon.
1969: Attracting audiences of nearly ten million. First colour broadcast on November 15 of Liverpool vs. West Ham at Anfield. Number of matches increased from one to two per episode.
1970: Goal of the Month competition is introduced, as is the iconic theme tune.
1971: Introduction of slow motion replays.
Capturing the action: The Match of the Day cameras at Portman Road for Ipswich Town vs. Liverpool in 1974
Front man: Jimmy Hill introduces an episode of Match of the Day in 1981
1979: BBC forced to share highlights rights with ITV’s Big Match. Match of the Day is moved to a Sunday in 1980-1981 and 1982-1983 as a result, but the number of games goes up to three. Coverage is shared between the two channels through the eighties.
1992: BBC regains exclusive rights for highlights with the launch of the Premier League, which is to be screened live by Sky. It retains the coverage since, except for 2001-2004 when it moved to ITV.
Trophy trio: The Match of the Day line-up in 1999 – Alan Hansen, Gary Lineker and Mark Lawrenson
2004: Match of the Day 2 is launched on a Sunday night.
2012: Match of the Day still draws in one in every four television viewers on a Saturday night.