World of Sport (UK TV series)
|World of Sport|
Dickie Davies in the World of Sport studio.
|Presented by||Eamonn Andrews,
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||1050|
|Running time||270 minutes|
|Original run||2 January 1965 – 28 September 1985|
World of Sport was a British television sport anthology programme which ran on ITV between 2 January 1965 to 28 September 1985 in response to competition from the BBC's Grandstand. Like Grandstand, the programme ran for several hours every Saturday afternoon.
Eamonn Andrews was the first host and the programme itself was "compiled for Independent Television" by ABC Weekend Television. From the summer of 1968 it was produced by London Weekend Television - under the ITV Sport banner, with the other ITV stations supplying footage of events in their regions. Thames Television took over LWT's responsibilities for Bank Holiday editions. Dickie Davies also took over as host in 1968 and would remain the face of the show until it ended in 1985. Other presenters were Fred Dinenage and Jim Rosenthal.
The programme's title was originally Wide World of Sports, this was changed after about six weeks because all the initial programmes featured sports from within the UK and early Programme Editor John Bromley felt that "Wide" World of Sports would have looked rather silly.1
The show included popular segments such as On the Ball (a preview of the day's football action), the ITV Seven (horse racing), and wrestling with commentator Kent Walton. It also showed sports not seen elsewhere, such as women's hockey, netball, lacrosse, water skiing and stock car racing or sports that were not popular with the British mainstream, such as NASCAR and ice speedway. It featured bizarre sports like the World Barrel Jumping Championships, and even death-defying stunts.
It often showed show jumping and other equestrian events, especially in its earlier years, and towards the end of its life it showed snooker extensively. 'Minority' sports were a feature throughout its run. BBC had purchased the rights to as many established events as it could; a joke of the period was that the BBC were going through the list of sports in alphabetical order and had run out of cash before it reached wrestling which is how ITV got it. Two sports in particular ten-pin bowling and kart racing benefited from television exposure to a British public hitherto unaware of them. British stock car drivers such as Barry Lee also benefited from the show's exposure.
The programme also occasionally acquired the rights to genuinely major sporting events, such as the Tour de France and the Ryder Cup. Admittedly this was in 1977 when the United States v Great Britain and Ireland match was regarded as something of a mismatch before Europe became the opposition.
During the football season, the programme would normally finish with the Results Service, which started shortly before the full-time whistles started to go in the afternoon games on Saturday.
A typical edition would be broadcast between 1215 and 1710 and would take on the following format.2
- 1230 On The Ball - football preview with Brian Moore and in later years Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves.
- 1300 Sports Special 1 - A wide array of sports, often including clips from US show Wide World of Sports. Less prominent sports such as darts, snooker, bowls, water skiing, speedway, rallying and others would also feature.
- 1330 Racing, The ITV Seven.
- 1500 Sports Special 2 - see Sports Special 1.
- 1545 Half-Time Scores - the half-time scores from that day's football, plus racing results from races that had taken place in the previous hour.
- 1600 Wrestling - a mainstay of the World of Sport schedule from 1965 until it ended. Many of the wrestlers featured became household names in the UK and the greatest rivalry was between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks
- 1645 Results Service - all the full-time football scores, match reports and league tables plus the last of the day's horse racing results.
The FA Cup Final also featured on World of Sport - with BBC and ITV often competing for viewers by broadcasting unusual features with early starts to their broadcasts to entice viewers to watch their coverage. The Cup Final was generally the only football match that was shown live on World of Sport.
Despite being a sports programme with cult status, running for twenty years, it was cancelled on 28 September 1985 because of a change in emphasis at ITV Sport - racing coverage had switched to Channel 4, and there was a declining audience for wrestling at this point. Wrestling continued to have a programme at its own right but it was transmitted on lunchtimes at 12.30 rather than teatimes and stayed on air until December 1988. During this period, matches from Joint Promotions, who previously held exclusive rights to ITV coverage, were supplemented with matches from rival promotion All Star Wrestling. It was originally planned to bring US wrestling to viewers on average of once a month in this slot - three weeks of the UK version and one of the American version - but the US version only appeared on a total of six occasions in the two years that it played in that slot. It has recently been re-run on The Fight Network since March 2004. Football coverage also continued with previous On the Ball hosts Saint and Greavsie and a results service also aired during the football season. Bob Colston had been the only regular results announcer for the duration of World of Sport, John Tyrrel was the regular reader of the racing results in its later years (and continued to work on Channel 4 Racing until 1994).
A spin-off programme Saint and Greavsie, featuring Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves, featuring football news, action and live chat was introduced by ITV on Saturday lunchtimes from 1985 to replace the On The Ball segment of World of Sport, enjoying a successful run that ended in 1992 when Sky Sports gained exclusive rights to broadcast English top-flight football.
From 1985, Wrestling with Kent Walton would follow immediately after Saint & Greavsie, before being dropped in late 1988, only shortly prior to the popularity of the US World Wrestling Federation promotion (now World Wrestling Entertainment) gaining momentum in the UK in that era via coverage on Sky Television plc from early 1989. During 1992-1995, several ITV regions screened rival US promotion World Championship Wrestling's programme WCW Worldwide in the old Saturday afternoon slot, having previously transmitted the promotion as late night viewing. In the mid 2000s, The Wrestling Channel, later The Fight Network, purchased the broadcasting rights to World of Sport's wrestling shows until the channel stopped transmitting. It is now shown on UK satellite channel Men and Movies.
The Results Service also continued to run as a standalone programme in its own right from 1985, presented generally by Elton Welsby, but was dropped in May 1992 and added to the ITN Evening News bulletins on Saturdays from the start of the 1992/93 season. Bob Colston nevertheless continued to read the results in the ITN bulletins until defecting to Sky Sports at the end of the 1995/96 season.
Live coverage of sports such as athletics, ice skating and snooker also continued to play a part in the Saturday afternoon schedule on ITV for a time, but gradually diminshed after a few years.
ITV paid tribute to World of Sport as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations in September 2005.
World of Sport had an iconic theme tune and opening credits which featured the ITV Sport logo and the programme name as trailing banners from white Piper Super Cub light aircraft. The long running theme "World Of Sport March", used between 1968 and 1983, was composed by Don Harper, a re-recorded version of the tune was introduced in the early 1980s accompanied by a new title sequence opening with a view of the Earth eclipsing the sun.
The advent of computer-generated imagery saw a new opening title sequence appear in 1983 together with a more contemporary theme tune composed by Jeff Wayne, this lasted until the series ended in 1985.
Jeff Wayne also composed a new theme tune for the opening and closing credits to the Results Service during its period as a standalone programme between 1985 and 1992. Previously a simple, 10-second musical and visual sting had been used to introduce the Results Service during the World of Sport programme itself.
An excerpt from the theme music to World Of Sport
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- On 11 May 1985, World of Sport switched its coverage to Valley Parade stadium as match commentator John Helm, who had been covering the game for Yorkshire Television, described the events of the Bradford City stadium fire as they unfolded.
- The comedian Eric Morecambe appeared as a guest on the Christmas Eve edition of World of Sport in 1977 causing mayhem by entertaining and trying to disrupt his friend Dickie Davies' presentation links. 
- The show featured rows of typists sat behind the main presenter, looking as though they were preparing items for the show. In fact they were administration staff at LWT, moved from their offices to the studio on a Saturday afternoon. The material they were actually typing was often scripts, internal memos or replies to fan mail. This was parodied by French and Saunders in the sketch Sports Report and featured their recurring 'Extras' characters attempting to get their faces on television.
- "The Daily Telegraph: Obituary of John Bromley: Creator of ITV's World of Sport, which ended the BBC's monopoly". The Daily Telegraph. 6 February 2002.
- World of Sport schedule TVTimes 1985