TV Shows We Used To Watch - World Of Sport 1965-85
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.
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.
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.
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 and occasionally early starts to their broadcasts to entice viewers to watch their coverage. The Cup Final was generally the only football match that was ever 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).
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