The BBC has marked the end of an era by discontinuing its classified football results service on 5 live, ending a British radio institution that has been broadcast since the 1950s.
The decision to drop the longrunning feature – in which all major English and Scottish matches were given equal treatment, often with a distinctive intonation – has led to suggestions that the BBC is prioritising Premier League football over the lower leagues.
Full results have been read out on Sports Report, the world’s longest-running sports radio programme, on Saturday afternoons since the early 1950s. First presented by John Webster, James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 and went on to become one of the most recognisable voices in British broadcasting – altering his tone of voice to indicate a home win, an away win or a draw – before passing the torch to Charlotte Green in 2013.
The results will continue to be read out on television as part of the BBC’s Final Score programme.
Yet BBC bosses have now quietly dropped the feature to make way for extra live coverage of Premier League matches kicking off at 5.30pm on Saturdays. Many fans only noticed the change when the segment failed to appear as usual on Saturday – the first day of the football season.
While Sports Report began in 1948, the classified results were not included in the first running order and only started several years later. They soon became a staple for football fans across the country, however, and will for ever be associated with the programme’s famous theme tune, Hubert Bath’s Out of the Blue.
Unsurprisingly, given its iconic status, the loss of the classified results service has been widely mourned, often by people who associate it with key memories of going to matches or hearing results come in. “Can’t believe the BBC have dropped the reading of the classified results on Sports Report,” said Mark Lawrenson, the former Liverpool defender and a longtime BBC pundit. “Talk about an OG..!! WTF”.
The poet Ian McMillan said: “RIP the beautiful and profound sound poem of the classified football results on Sports Report. Now we have all lost at home.”
Before the smartphone era, fans returning home from 3pm kick-offs would first find out about results elsewhere by rushing back to the car and tuning in to Sports Report. Originally broadcast on the BBC Light Programme, it was aired on BBC Radio 2 from 1970 until 1990 before switching to BBC Radio 5 in 1990 and then to the newly launched BBC Radio 5 live in 1994.
In recent years the growth of smartphone apps has made it easy for fans to keep up with scores at other matches throughout the afternoon, meaning there was less of a reveal element to the official reading of the results. The sharp decline in the number of people gambling on the football pools also meant fewer people were waiting to hear the full set of results.
Listeners still heard the outcome of the afternoon’s games read out by 5 live presenter Mark Chapman. Despite this, the distinctive standalone – and formal – announcement of the afternoon’s football results remained an important broadcast for many fans of the game.
Explaining the decision to ditch the classified results service, a BBC statement said: “With the addition of the 5.30pm live Premier League match to our coverage, Sports Report has been condensed into a shorter programme.
“We will still offer a comprehensive goal service throughout the day on air and on the BBC Sport website as well as Final Score on BBC One. We would like to thank everyone who has read the classified football results on 5 live over the years.”