Sport on Radio: Grand national institution, but Corporation 0... Campbell 1

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The Independent Online

'Sports Report' was often more like a school report. These days we can look back and chuckle at some of its foibles and "idiosyncratic iconoclasts", as Stuart Hall called the news team on BBC Radio 5 Live's 60th birthday tribute on Thursday night he would call them that, wouldn't he? (Oh, and by the way, what was the score?)

But many years ago, as the strains of Hubert Bath's march 'Out of the Blue' began at 5pm on Saturday afternoon, the strain would start to tell on the listener; the stomach would start to churn and the palms would sweat as we waited to hear the special intonation that James Alexander Gordon would apply to your team's result when he read out the classified results.

These days, Sky Sports regale us I won't say "spoil" us with the likes of Phil Thompson and Paul Merson screaming every time the ball hits the back of the net on Jeff Stelling's 'Soccer Saturday'. As we leave the grounds, the PA announcer tells us all the results of the other games. But even the BBC Radio football correspondent, Mike Ingham, revealed that he and his father would always have to leave Derby matches 10 minutes before the end so that they could reach the car in time to hear the results. Otherwise, way back when, you might have to wait for the Sunday papers before you found out the scores.

The two-hour tribute covered some cherished ground, such as Ian Payne trying to interview Scotland's Tom Boyd ahead of their match against Holland at Euro 96 but finding himself talking to the former ITV presenter Tommy Boyd instead. But a lot of it did not really concern the actual 'Sport Report' slot at all. There was a good 25 minutes on the Grand National which preceded it, and there was the legend of Christopher Martin-Jenkins of 'Test Match Special' fame presenting 'Sports Session', which came afterwards. He wrapped up a show seven minutes early one evening then, after two minutes of paper shuffling, returned with the words: "Welcome back, now some rugby."

It was lamentable that there was no mention at all of that doyen of 'Sports Report', Cliff Morgan. And shame on the BBC for giving the last word to Alastair Campbell, hardly a friend of the Corporation in the wake of the Gilligan/Kelly affair. 'Sports Report' seemed like an age of innocence com-pared to the world in which that master of the media dark arts used to operate.

The show closed with the Grimthorpe brass band, of 'Brassed Off' cinematic fame, playing the full version of the theme tune. Kate and Keith Fletcher were there, a couple who had walked down the aisle to the tune. With that pure and high sound came their enduring happiness. "Every Saturday at 5pm I'm thinking about my wife," said Keith. "That's probably why she did it." It's a pity the band didn't strike up a little earlier, the moment Campbell came on air. Not even he could talk over the top of a brass band.

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