When I was growing up during the 1980’s, serving my apprenticeship on the North Bank at Upton Park there would be literally hundreds of men standing watching the game with their ear pressed to a radio. The “Terrace Tranny” as it was known was a vital part of a match day. Long before the days of mobile phones the only way to keep in touch with events around the country was to listen in to Radio 2 to the voices of Peter Jones, John Helm and of course a young, ego free Alan Green. Yes, Radio 2. Because back in the 1980’s there was no such thing as Radio 5, let alone a live version. That didn’t come until the 1990’s.
This was the age of only three TV channels so the concept of commercial radio was also still in its infancy. Talk Radio did not start until 1995 so the airwaves were relatively idiot free. Just good old fashioned commentary. And of course with virtually every game being played on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm, the radio was the only place to hear all the action.
Half time scores would be read out by the Tannoy announcer, normally taken from Ceefax (the forerunner to Teletext….try explaining that one to your kids) or from a phone call to the Press Association. In some grounds the scores were put up around the edge of the pitch via a complex number/letter system only understandable to those with a programme (Game A = Arsenal v Chelsea, B = Gillingham v Bury and so on but randomly mixed up to stop people guessing which game was what).
And then the world started changing. The big radios started getting smaller and smaller, fitting into a pocket. Headphones became more acceptable in society rather than a sign that you had a hearing problem. People stopped shouting out the scores to all and sundry. It was a bad day for football. No long would I know what was happening at Oakwell or Roker Park, preempting my return home to update my Shoot League Ladders.
And then the era of the mobile phone was ushered in. Before too long people realised that being able to make calls was secondary. Text became the medium of conversation. Texts would fly in from friends at other games or those simply watching the vidiprinter (classic Saturday afternoon entertainment – watching an electronic typewriter pause after your team for an eternity before typing 0). The age of shouting out random scores to strangers around you was back!
The 1990’s brought the start of all seater stadia and therefore the difficulty in distancing yourselves from those “shouters”. On the terrace you could slowly move away without them noticing as they turned to talk to you as you had once feigned interest. In the seats you were stuck with them.
Phone networks started to get better and despite a brief fad of pocket TV’s where reception was always appalling, it was the fast adoption of data services that have brought the renaissance in how we get our latest scores. And let’s face it looking forlornly at scores elsewhere whilst watching West Ham in the previous few seasons has been painful enough.
Today it is all about the apps. Twitter brings us scores and stories as they happen. Last season we literally read every kick in Lewes’s end of season must win game against Bishops Stortford as if we were there thanks to Big Deaksy on the Twitter some 100 miles away. But now I have upgraded to an iPhone I have the choice of Livescore, Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, BBC Mobile and a host of other applications that can update me on the move with the the latest scores. I even have an app to turn my iPhone into a radio so that I can listen to the scores on good old fashion Radio Five Live.
So what will the future bring? As phones become more advanced and mobile networks get bigger and better the future will surely be live football streamed to your mobile on High Definition 5D, or is that all pie in the sky?