Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, our main output of League football was via TV highlights on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon – but from 1983, this changed when television decided to launch live league football.
The agreement made with the football authorities was that BBC and ITV would each screen seven live games a season, including FA Cup games. The BBC would screen their games on Friday evenings - which has always struck me as an odd time to play football (but now UEFA have adopted it for international qualifying games) – and ITV would stick to their traditional Sunday afternoon slot, with games being nationwide rather than the regional highlights.
It is hard to imagine but this was a big event. The first league game was between Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest and was trailed and previewed as if it was a cup final. I can recall going through London and seeing on big billboards the ITV posters with the provocative slogan ‘Arsenal fans, this weekend you can see real football’.
The main concern was the attendance - would anyone turn up knowing that the game was going to be live on their television? There was much talk of how much compensation home clubs could claim. In the event, although crowd numbers were slightly down, it was not significantly so.
With only 14 live league and cup games on the television, as well as the cup finals, this gave each game an aura of a special event, a treat for the TV footy fan. (To compare, this season, 2011-12, there will be 178 live Premiership and FA Cup games on Sky, ESPN and ITV).
ITV had the first three games with their third, a scoop, being the Merseyside derby – there were no worries about crowd attendance at that game. BBC joined in with a great contest just before Christmas, then other live games included a cup shock as Brighton beat League Champions Liverpool, a great performance from Manchester United demolishing Luton, and a treat for Southampton fans seeing them live on the telly three times in a month. We all got the bug, and have it still.
Below, collected from the web sites linked, is the list of the live League and FA Cup games which were shown in that first season.
Sunday 2 October 1983 Tottenham Hotspur 2 Nottingham Forest 1 (ITV)
Sunday 23 October 1983 Aston Villa 1 Wolves 1 (ITV)
Sunday 6 November 1983 Liverpool 3 Everton 0 (ITV)
Sunday 27 November 1983 West Ham United 1 Manchester United 1 (ITV)
Friday 16 December 1983 Manchester United 4 Tottenham Hotspur 2 (BBC)
Friday 6 January 1984 Liverpool 4 Newcastle 0 (FA Cup Round 3) (BBC)
Friday 13 January 1984 QPR 1 Manchester United 1 (BBC)
Friday 20 January 1984 Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 3 (BBC)
Sunday 29 January 1984 Brighton 2 Liverpool 0 (FA Cup Round 4) (ITV)
Sunday 12 February 1984 Luton Town 0 Manchester United 5 (ITV)
Friday 17 February 1984 Blackburn 0 Southampton 1 (FA Cup Round 5) (BBC)
Sunday 11 March 1984 Sheffield Wednesday 0 Southampton 0 (FA Cup Quarter Final) (ITV)
Friday 16 March 1984 Southampton 2 Liverpool 0 (BBC)
Friday 4 May 1984 Manchester City 0 Chelsea 2 (BBC)