Leading article: The final whistle

Click to follow

The nostalgia that has attended the passing of the BBC's Grandstand is understandable. And it is perhaps a pity that it did not quite reach its half-century. But for any programme to have survived almost 50 years in a media and sporting climate that has changed out of all recognition is a singular feat.

Grandstand was a child of the early television era, when viewers had few choices and were by and large grateful for what they got. The programme was conceived as the national showcase for sport, and it flitted between racing, football, athletics and whatever else happened to be on the schedule, pioneering the latest outside broadcasting techniques. It is hard to believe now, but this was a time when most sport happened on Saturdays, when football kicked off at 3pm and, oh yes, the viewing was in black and white.

Sport is now a global phenomenon, brought to viewers around the year, around the week and around the clock. Televised sport is a multi-billion pound extravaganza; the demands of television, not tradition, determine match times. The players, in almost every sport, are highly paid, highly sponsored, professionals.

Grandstand was past its view-by date; some would say well past. But its diverse menu introduced many to sports they would never otherwise have encountered. In an age when we can choose to watch any one of a whole range of sports at our convenience (but football's money often calls the shots), it would be a pity if Grandstand's variety were lost. There is merit in offering armchair athletes, along with what they already know and love, something less familiar as well.