More TV Memories – Sportsnight.

Sportsnight (BBC1, 1968-1997)

This is another look back at how sport used to be covered on TV. One of the main sport shows was Grandstand. But as this was only on BBC1 once a week, there would be an additional show in a midweek slot that took a look at the events that had happened in the days since, and this would be shown in a late-night slot. As long ago as the 50s, there was Sportsview, and this eventually became Sportsnight (not to be confused with the later American sitcom with the same name).

This launched in the late-60s, and the original host was David Coleman (to the point that the original title was Sportsnight With Coleman). Hosts in later years included Steve Rider and Des Lynam, who were all hoping that we would be able to stay up late. Of course, because of the timeslot, very little would actually be shown live, so there would be a lot of highlights shown in various sports, anything they could get to fill the time really.

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It’s no surprise to realise that football featured rather regularly. There were highlights of top-flight matches (there was no MOTD2 back in those days). There would also be highlights of various European competitions, long before the Champions League came along, and English teams were progressing to the later stages. And FA Cup replays often featured too. This was back in the days when if the replay ended in a draw, then there would be a second replay, and so on, until there was a winner. Someone finally decided that penalty shoot-outs might come in useful.

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Some of the other sports featured included boxing, or maybe some snooker as well, several familiar-sounding commentators would always be on standby, along with all of the latest results and analysis. For many years, ITV also had an equivalent show, which was Midweek Sports Special. However, Sportsnight came to an end in the late-90s after almost three decades and wasn’t replaced, and also around this time the BBC’s other live sport shows Sunday Grandstand and Sport On Friday ended too.

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Grandstand did manage to continue for a while though, but as there were now so many sport channels providing viewers with just about anything that they wanted 24 hours a day, the BBC lost the rights to several high profile events, and suddenly filling the time was a struggle. It was still a surprise when Grandstand did come to an end though, it was one of those long-running shows that you thought would never leave the screen.