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Football on TV in 1964 / Football on TV in 1964

Football on TV in 1964

By on 9 February 2018

This week, the bidding begins again in earnest as to how the TV rights for the Premier League are to be carved up and dished out when the present deal ends. Get ready because we all know who the winners and losers are in that game.

Compare and contrast this article by Patrick Collins from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in December 1964. Pre-1966 World Cup gates were well down in England and the idea of showing more football on Television was just madness in the eyes of the experts of the day. Not to mention, the lack of faith in the FA’s management in general (yes then as well as now) meant that the football public as a whole were very concerned we were going to make a hash of hosting the 1966 World Cup.

But the article isn’t just a classic because of what we now know about televised football. Collins was really ‘on one’ when he wrote this. Wembley Stadium, the FA and London football fans all come in for some serious flak. Clearly it was a subject he felt very passionate about. It also explodes a bit of a myth that the Empire Stadium was always this ‘Mecca’ for football fans across the country. Clearly not in his eyes in 1964.

The article is re-published here with the original page of the magazine if you prefer to zoom in and read it that way. We’ve also shown footage from the England v Wales game he discusses in the piece.

The F.A.’s TV boomerang is coming back fast!

by Pat Collins

 THE biggest certainty about the England v Wales match is that it WON’T fill Wembley. Not even three-quarters of the Empire Stadium will be occupied. Putting the game on under lights may lure a few more through the turnstiles, but this will be more than offset if the TV cameras are allowed in. Who will want to wend his weary way to Wembley if the night is damp and drear?

The FA let TV in for the second-half of the last Wembley game—against Belgium. I was agreeably surprised, when looking at the vast, open spaces, to be told that there were 45,000 present. The rulers seem to try hard to keep people away from this game of ours, which is such a struggle to sell these days…

Nowadays, when it is a tough job to bring the folk out on Saturdays, and these colder evenings, the fans are encouraged to stay at home by the fire and watch in comfort. All because of a fat TV fee.

 It is a short-term and dangerous policy by the F.A., which will boomerang just as surely as it has in amateur boxing where everybody has been “choked” with too much televised boxing. The small shows have been hit so disastrously that that sport is at its lowest ebb.

There were six League games played on the evening of the England v Belgium match. Luton had their lowest gate for 30 years. Why on earth did we have to have that competition between our international side, TV and a dozen League clubs?

I thought they were ALL after customers, but only the BBC could have been satisfied with the results.

Wembley on that evening, with an atmosphere like that of a Midland League game, made me shudder to think of the show we will put on for the World Cup—both on and OFF field. I’m seldom impressed by any Soccer show at Wembley. There is little or no atmosphere there, and for all too long it has “lorded it” as our only national stadium so that they seem to have lost the sense of occasion. One match is so very much like any other. There’s nothing you can “feel” about a football occasion there now.


ALF RAMSEY has troubles enough for the moment without me adding to them. Time is short for him—some 20 months to have an England team with a chance in the World Cup field. But already some of those who saw how the Japanese so superbly handled the Olympic Games are beginning to fear for our organisation, or lack of it, in 1966.

Looking back again to the Belgian match and others at Wembley I’m wondering just how well we shall support the World Cup series at the gate … especially in London. The capital has long since forfeited any unquestioned right to stage all big-time football. ‘Today, the capital’s Soccer fans are a cosmopolitan, couldn’t-care-less following (look at Chelsea!), lacking the enthusiasm and fervour for the game of areas like the North-East and Lancashire.

It has grown blase about a position it has no right to hold. And Londoners, for the most part, will continue to sink lower into their fireside chairs if the F.A. keep putting the game into their sitting-rooms instead of making a fight of it to get them out to see a “live” game.

Somebody, somewhere, ought to be fighting to get the customers, instead of grabbing a BBC or ITV cheque.

They won’t fill Wembley for the match against Wales. They’ll be lucky to more than half fill it. Too many people have been helped too readily to stay away from football.

We mustn’t wonder if so many fans lose the habit and the urge to go out . . . even in the shirt-sleeved warmth of a July day in the summer of 1966. . . and the World Cup!

For there are too many old, old-fashioned men still running this game. The past will soon be theirs—but what about OUR future?

England v Wales – November 1964

Collins was right about one thing for sure. Only 40,000 turned out to see Frank Wignall score twice in his England debut at Wembley. Whether the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of televised football is debatable.

Frank Wignall scores his second goal for England against Wales at Wembley