End of an era as 'Grandstand' bows out to digital technology

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The Independent Online

It made stars of Frank Bough, Des Lynam and David Coleman, but after almost half a century, Grandstand is to be retired from the BBC schedules.

The programme, which has dominated the Saturday afternoons of generations, will be phased out as BBC Sport is overhauled, the BBC director-general Mark Thompson will announce today.

Grandstand has been superseded by technology, as viewers have switched to watching sport on the internet and interactive television, and receiving football results by text message.

The decision was made as part of the BBC's creative futures review, which is aimed at adapting the corporation to the digital world. Research is believed to have shown that viewers link BBC Sport, more than Grandstand, with interactive technology.

Grandstand, which was launched on 11 October 1958, was created by Paul Fox and Bryan Cowgill, with a theme tune composed by Keith Mansfield. Its first presenter was Peter Dimmock, who was followed by David Coleman, Frank Bough, Des Lynam and Steve Ryder. Almost every major sporting event has been covered on the show, includingthe FA Cup final, Test matches, the Olympics and Wimbledon.

Laurence Marcus, the owner of the Television Heaven website, said the decision was comparable to dropping Match of the Day. "The BBC has done a wonderful job with its interactive services, but I'm staggered they'd drop Grandstand rather than incorporate it with their developing technology. My fear is this is the start of the end of free sport."|

Grandstand, once a continuous block of sporting television, has been broken down into components including "Football Focus". Sporting events will still appear on BBC1 on Saturday afternoons, and it is believed the Grand National and FA Cup football will be given their own programmes.

A BBC spokesman could not confirm yesterday when the programme will disappear from the schedule.