Nostalgic Football: The Big Match and the football evolution

DURING THE 70s and 80s, BBC’s Match of the Day had competition in the form of ITV’s The Big Match. The programmes didn’t compete head-to-head: MOTD had a Saturday night slot (one that it still holds today) whilst The Big Match had a Sunday afternoon slot. Throughout the 70s and early 80s, TBM was hosted by the popular, instantly recognisable Brian Moore – Brian Moore means football.

Game changing. Whilst footballers wages have escalated to skyscraper levels, there are other areas of the game that have evolved over the years. Here are a few of them captured when we revisited The Big Match.

Only one sub! Yep, there was only one substitute on the bench back in the yester-years of football. The conclusion of many old-school supporters is that the players were as hard as a frozen football pitch. Crunching tackles that sent opponents flying was part of the game with few cautionary cards dished out. Not sure what kind of diet the players were on but maybe a few dollops of cement was part of their pre-match meal.

That pitch is looking a bit rough. In today’s football, we hear of managers complaining about the state of some pitches around the country. Some of the surfaces the players ran around on during the 70s resembled a water-soaked field trampled by a herd of cows then left to dry out! A battered looking pitch was normal – the players just got on with it and tried to keep their footing.

Electronic advertising boards not allowed! These days, with football such a lucrative business, advertising boards are ruled by companies that suck-in cash faster than a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Today’s advertising on boards shift, flashes and winks at us. Check out the no-frills advertising boards from the 70s and 80s below – there’s even advertising for local businesses. Draper tools, Duckhams, Radio Rentals, Visionhire and Pontins holidays were popular advisers back then.

Pure and simple. Once upon a time, football shirts would have player numbers on the back and on the front was the kit manufacturers logo and club badge. Today’s kit would look slightly bare if it didn’t have the players name spread across the back and a sponsorship logo splashed across the front. Advertising boards have their restrictions, but when you have advertising on two legs running up and down the pitch, that’s 360 degrees advertising for 90 minutes – very clever.

The changes just keep coming: Division 1 changed to the Premier league. The League cup has gone through numerous name changes – the Milk cup, Littlewoods cup, Rumbelows cup – some call it the Mickey Mouse cup – a name that requires no explanation to football fans. The only entry into the prestigious European Cup (now called the Champions League) was by winning the league title – no sneaky way in for clubs that came second, third or fourth in the domestic league. Lots of changes with cash being shuffled and dished out faster than a casino dealer. There’s no sign of the football evolution slowing down but we can smile as we reminisce about the questionable hairstyles, moustaches and when the prawn sandwich brigade was not part of the footballing dictionary.


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2 thoughts on “Nostalgic Football: The Big Match and the football evolution”

  1. My dad worked as a floor manager with LWT the producer of the big match for many years. Sat up on the Spurs TV gantry with Brian Moore a few times as well as at Wembley for the League Cup finals of 71’ and 73’ when it was high in the roof. Remember dad telling me the story of when the BBC tried to claim that they had exclusive pitch side interviewing rights at the FA Cup Final…dad and the LWT production boys had to physically move the BBC staff out of the way!

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