9 Ways We Consumed Football In The 90s

9 Ways We Consumed Football In The 90s
By PJ Browne Updated
Teletext

Teletext was perhaps the most important tool of the 90s for staying up to date with football news. It had the scores, the news, even bits of transfer gossip aggregated from the papers (ah Ceefax page 316). It even remained much-used into the 00s.

If you heard a rumour about a signing on the bus home from school then your first port of call in checking its veracity would be teletext. Cole to Man Utd, Shearer to Newcastle, Neil Redfearn to Charlton, the moves were not real until you visited Ceefax or Aertel and saw the news for yourself.

Entire games were watched on teletext. It would be akin to now constantly reloading your Livescore app over and over until the game ends. It was particularly agonising when you had one leg left on the £2 accumulator you had convinced your father to place and the money was badly needed to visit the local night club (minus his 30% commission on the bet.) You think there's drama in having Jeff Stelling scream about a winner for Bristol City that completes your Saturday bet, it is nothing in comparison to have the teletext page turn and see the 1-0 scoreline you needed with the FT next to the game.

Football gossip hotlines

Football news these days is immediate. If you haven't heard that Liverpool have been linked with some 20-year-old German football robot from Hamburg within 15 minutes of the news breaking then your are behind. Laughably behind. You can no longer be considered a real football fan.

There were fewer ways to obtain little nuggets of football gossip in the 90s. One of them was the Teamtalk Hotline or some other iteration such as Clubcall. Numbers for these lines were usually obtained on teletext where they enticed you in with headlines such as "Leeds to sign Dutch centre half". Hold on - 'is Frank de Boer on this way to Elland Road?' - is what you thought, as you furiously scribbled a '1550' phone number down in your religion copy next to some bullshit about choosing a confirmation name. It'll be Frank if Leeds pull off this signing.

So how did you discover a day before everyone else that Leeds were not signing de Boer but some guy called Robert Molenaar? You'd spent 15 minutes and probably £40 on some football gossip hotline while one parent was at work and the other was driving your sister to tin whistle practice. Money well spent when you got to school the next day though. And in the end it wasn't really your fault, it was those goddamn pixelised teletext headlines, the super-expensive clickbait of their day.

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Match/Shoot


No young 90s football fan's bedroom was complete without a wallpaper of posters from Match and Shoot. The former always seemed like the more legitimate option, like the broadsheet to Shoot's tabloid, well that was the perception in my eyes back then anyway, although I probably didn't think of it in broadsheet and tabloid terms.

In the end though the main reason that you bought them was for the posters. All of which were stuck to the wall with blu-tak. The synergy between both magazines and the adhesive blue substance in the 90s must have been substantial. Sticking Tony Yeboah's face on my wall is certainly the only reason I've ever purchased it.

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The quarter past the hour sports bulletin on Sky News

Believe it or not there was a time before the ubiquitousness of Sky Sport Sports News. If you didn't have Sky Sports to watch a live game, especially a midweek one, and there wasn't a mid-week Match of the Day, then there was only one real option to see the goal or red card which you had no doubt read about on teletext. That was the hourly sports bulletin on Sky News.

Generally it featured this guy, Nick Powell.

Play by mail football management

Before the days of computer-based football management games, people still yearned to live out their fantasies of taking control of their favourite top division club or somehow accomplishing the near impossible dream of taking Barnet all the way to European Cup glory.

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The most available avenue to realising this was Play By Mail football. Around once a fortnight, huge reams of paper would arrive in the post. Such was the volume of paper it felt like the delivery should have been made by specially assigned postal van and then brought to your door by forklift.

Hours were spent pouring over the stats as you tried to outwit other like-minded individuals who were probably aged anywhere from between 12 and 40. How the games were simulated I do not know. Is it possible that scores and scorers were picked completely at random with no regard for the hours of minute scrutiny you had put into selecting your team, formations and transfer targets? Yes. That never crossed your mind at the time though.

Early football management games

The first version of Championship Manager was released in 1992. Around that time, One-Nil was also available. It was basic, but it was freakin' addictive in all its MS-DOS glory.

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This was just up another level from play by mail football. There was immediate gratification. You could play out several seasons in a day. English essay? Nah, I'll get another 2 seasons in with Sheffield Wednesday instead. Your father might have purchased that computer for his accountancy business but you've found another far more important use for it. You're going to watch the tiny little pixelated dollar sign representing David Hirst tear around that giant 15" CRT monitor in some sort of class-A drug-like frenzy score the winner against Coventry.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qk9qfPd-Z0

Fantasy football in the newspapers

We nearly all play fantasy football on the Premier League website now. Way back in the 90s however, it was different. It was played via newspapers. Sometime in July, a list of players and their values would appear in the paper. In the early years, you would have had to fill out a form then post your team into the paper. Over time, the game evolved and you could phone in your team. This also facilitated the introduction of transfers.

Around this time a friend with a touch-tone phone became highly-valued. Their parents' phone bill sky-rocketed as all your friends figured out they had to have Claus Jensen and Matt Elliott in their sides.

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Eurogoals

When 'the channels' arrived in the early 90s, one of the stations which came free was Eurosport. And on every Monday evening there was Eurogoals, a gateway into the wonder that was European football. All of a sudden 12-year-olds around Ireland became knowledgeable about the Belgian, Dutch, French and Portuguese leagues.

So when Luc Nilis scored twice for Belgium against Ireland in the 1998 World Cup playoff, it was no surprise, you'd been watching him bang in the goals for PSV for the last four years.

Commentary on the games came mostly from Angus Loughran (aka Stato from Fantasy Football) and Archie MacPherson. It sounded like the audio had been recorded in a utility room somewhere in the English midlands with Angus and Archie surrounded by industrial-sized containers of Domestos, but it sufficed. Angus also introduced us to the possibility of a goal being finished with 'aplomb'.

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If you were the one lucky enough to have access to 'the channels' then it could elevate your standing at school. Every edition of Eurogoals was recorded and passed around the classroom.

Football Italia

Eurosport and their highlights of the lesser European leagues was fine and all but it could not match the exoticism of Italian football. 9.30 on Monday nights on 'Network 2' appeared Football Italia, essential viewing. Not being allowed to stay up and watch it was the worst thing in the world. It meant you were seriously out of the loop on Tuesday morning. This problem was solved by recording it and getting up at 7 the next morning to get your fill of Rui Costa, Peter Brackley and Coco Pops.

Of course, if you had Channel 4 then you could also watch Gazzetta Football Italia and view James Richardson eat ice cream and read newspapers. Afterwards, you tried to recreate the scene with some Viennetta, the Indo and a plastic garden chair.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeNZcS_pJ_g

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