TV Cream

Cream over Britain

World Cup TV through the years


BBC – Perhaps still the quintessential telly World Cup, the BBC’s coverage was spearheaded by presenter/commentator DAVID COLEMAN out in Mexico, and FRANK BOUGH and DAVID VINE back in London. Commentator KENNETH WOLSTENHOLME almost took out an injunction when the BBC threatened to demote him in favour of Coleman if England reached the final. Meanwhile Dave got a bit angry out in Mexico when rehearsals went awry and fantastically his ensuing rant was bootlegged for all eternity. “You’ve got a bloody zoom there, and a camera that’s racing all over the bloody studio! I mean, Jesus Christ almighty!” Fantastically demented set, with two tiers of pundits on Blofeld-style swivel chairs containing the likes of BRIAN CLOUGH, DON REVIE, BOB WILSON and IAN ST JOHN, who brilliantly lost a Sportsnight competition to commentate on the finals to Welshman IDWAL ROBLING. Jauntily Latin theme tune with maracas and stuff.

ITV – They’re still going on about how they “invented” the panel, but what the hell were Clough and co doing on the Beeb? For all that, still their finest moment, fronted by BRIAN MOORE and JIMMY HILL, and yes, The Bumper Boys Book Of Football Retro Humour instructs us to mention Jim’s cravat at this point. Not forgetting the pundits, then – PAT CRERAND, MALCOLM ALLISON, BOB McNAB and DEREK DOUGAN arguing furiously and jabbing their fingers over the merits of Jairzinho, and smoking cigars on camera. The quartet wore shirts (they had big collars and stuff – ha ha!) during one programme as later seen on Police Five. Doing the commentary business in Mexico were the majestic HUGH JOHNS, GERALD SINSTADT, GERRY HARRISON and best of all, ROGER “Wowee!” MALONE of HTV West fame. Join them on opening day. Jauntily Latin theme tune with maracas and stuff.


BBC – The Chin had made the switch to Shepherd’s Bush by now, and helped compere the coverage from Germany with the man Bough. The swivel chairs were still there, this time containing the likes of JOE MERCER, LAWRIE “Barbican” McMENEMY and FRANK “Frank?” McLINTOCK. Out in the field were Coleman, BARRY DAVIES and a tyro JOHN MOTSON getting overexcited over Brazil vs Zaire. “Well, what did he do that for?” Weird signature tune, all thrumming basslines and guitarwork, which sounded like it could have been the theme to Ironside or something.

ITV – “Pack those beers into the fridge. Get that TV picture perfect. Draw the curtains.” Sound advice from Cloughie in the TV Times, as ITV’s coverage kicked off. Same formula as 1970 – Brian in the chair, JACK CHARLTON, Dougan, Crerand and co talk shite behind a big desk. “The early evening shows lend themselves to casual open-necked gear, the later show looks better if we wear suits,” averred Mooro in TVT. Innovations include a Phone-In to the panel – and Brian looking pissed off when anyone called in to slag off him and the team – and ITV’s obsession with Fun Spot™, basically clips of players doing funny stuff rolled backwards and forwards in time with comedy music. Oh, and ridiculously detailed schedules in TV Times (4.58 Captains toss up). Rowdy parpy signature tune, which sounded like it could be the theme to Bless This House or something.


BBC – Bough and Hill still in charge in London, Coleman, Motson, Davies and Weeks out braving the tickertape of Argentina. Innovations include an early evening show “with younger viewers especially in mind”, where Wilson and TREVOR BROOKING sat on a settee in shirts and cords and did coaching tips and phone-in requests and stuff. ANDREW LLOYD-WEBBER did the ring-dingy theme tune, Argentine Melody, and dropped in for a chat with Frank at one point, handily to plug the newly-opened Evita, which of course provided the music for several thousand musical montages. Big blue set, with massive cardboard Subbuteo-style tournament scoreboard for Frank to stand in front of, with McMenemy, DENIS LAW and JOHN BOND doing the punditry.

ITV – Brian Moore remained in the hotseat for the build-up to and coverage of the big one, and was assisted in ITV’s beige and green studio by the likes of KEVIN KEEGAN and a proto-ANDY GRAY, years before Monday Night Football was but a gleam in Vic Wakeling’s eye. JOHAN CRUYFF dropped in when he could, prompting Clough to ask Mooro if he could sit next to him for the punditry. Everyone in massive, technicolor static-emitting suits. Hopeless theme tune compared to the Beeb’s – in what way does a brass band sum up the magnificent Latin passion of Argentina, ITV? And of course, multiple inquests into Scotland’s hilarious hyperbole and subsequent capitulation. “We, in the media didn’t help there,” sighed Mooro. You said it, Brian.


BBC – Coleman comes into the studio from the commentary box to replace Bough, after his ‘breakdown’ at the Moscow Olympics, but the Chin is still there, thrusting away. And so is Lloyd Webber, this time promoting Cats thanks to the World Cup Grandstand theme as nicked from the feline musical, backing solarised images of footballers and flags in the titles. Massive scoreboard in the set again, along with McMenemy and Charlton B, and a tyro GARTH CROOKS, no doubt irritating the hell out of everyone and thus setting the tone for the next 20 years. Commentators include ALAN PARRY for his first and only BBC World Cup, and a fledgling DESMOND LYNAM, actually out in the field and commentating on first-round Cameroon group games. Oh, and Coleman got to announce the Argentinian surrender in the Falklands live during one of the programmes.

ITV – Yeah, Mooro again, sitting in a rather pleasing wicker set this time, though, with maps of Spain on the walls, and a replica World Cup in the studio. Pundits included MICK CHANNON, RON ATKINSON and the debut pairing of the ever-chortling SAINT and GREAVSIE. Hugh Johns had packed in the top job for the delights of crown green bowls and Welsh football, so senior commentator for the first and only time was MARTIN TYLER, who introduced to some of his colleagues in the TV Times thus: “Nick Owen will be looking for any Spanish paper which might carry the county cricket scores, while Jim Rosenthal and Elton Welsby, both stylish dressers, might find time to assess the latest trends in Spanish fashion.” Er, quite. And the theme music was Matador, courtesy of Jeff Wayne, of all people.


BBC – Dawn of a new epoch at the Beeb, with Coleman shifting over to track and field and Bough doing breakfast, the man LYNAM takes charge. Mad demented theme tune, Aztec Lightning by Heads, whoever they were. Late night kick-offs ensure the return of that early evening roundup for the kids, this time with Bob Wilson and EMLYN HUGHES sat in massive white swivel chairs in a green set surrounded by pot plants. Minor controversy ensues when Emlyn slags off Bobby Robson, who slags off Emlyn back. “Comments there directed… at you Emlyn.” Team also includes the first sightings of the ever-intense MARTIN O’NEILL, hired after first-choice Norn Iron spokesperson George Best never turns up, and that bloke Gray again. All the pundits and commentators had to make pre-tournament predictions, with little pictures of their heads next to flags around a cardboard map of Mexico, which Bob would remove as their choices were eliminated. Tony Gubba USSR?

ITV – Best ever ITV World Cup theme tune by a country mile, the majestic Aztec Gold by Silsoe, whoever they were. Last outing for Mooro in the studio, although he flies out to commentate on the final, leaving bloody Saint in the presenter’s chair. Martin Tyler does the rest of the big games, including England v Argentina – “Goa… no!” The dope. S&G provide some the network’s least inspired ideas, like having JIM DAVIDSON and BOBBY DAVRO on as guests, although in retrospect they were marginally less worse than Lee Hurst’s appearances during Euro 96. And prior to that England quarter-final, ITV thought it would be a good idea for Jimmy to interrupt the credits of the preceding Winner Takes All and bellow “Hi, Greavsie here, watch the big match next on ITV!” It’s a miracle how he never went back on the drink. The other pundits include Clough again (“Even educated bees do it!”), Keggy and Channon. Wasn’t it amusing how he could never say Lineker? Set looked like a cross between the LWT directors gallery and the Eyecatchers office off of Me And My Girl, which in retrospect it possibly might have been.


BBC – “You’ll be humming it tomorrow – by July 8th you’ll know the words.” Yeah, Italia 90, Nessun Dorma, opera house titles with dancers “representing” the World Cup, “Cue Luciano”, it was all here. Massive set with massive photographs of old players, a desk and a big sofa for Des, Bob, Jim, TERRY VENABLES, KENNY DALGLISH and RAY WILKINS to chat. The cult of statistician Our Man Albert starts here. Twenty years on, tournament now bathed in the light emitted by the golden era of Lynam, but everyone forgets how he flew out to present England v Cameroon live from the ground and opened the programme by forgetting his words and generally floundering like a goldfish on Tom and Jerry’s living room carpet. Redeemed himself with ‘trademark dry presentation’ of Goal Of The Tournament. “Phone 0898 11 11 90 and if a lady called Mandy answers… you’ve got the wrong number.” And congratulations to winner Mr J Green of Leicester, as randomly selected by Butch (Wilkins, not the dog off Tom and Jerry) and an unconvincing lottery style graphic.

ITV – Man alive, it’s difficult to know where to start. Mooro relegated to commentary booth, so ITV elect for the double-headed presentation hydra that was ELTON WELSBY in Italy in a variety of shiny jackets with rolled up sleeves, and NICK OWEN in London in a nasty ‘Colisseum’-style set with pillars and stuff. Rubbish theme tune, Tutti Al Mondo by Argent and Van Hooke, all drum machines and opera samples. Nicely-done-but-gimmicky CGI titles with balls flying through space and being headed by an animated Venus De Milo, that sort of thing. S&G still present, Jim clad in a variety of ‘humorous’ T-shirts bearing slogans so bad the Daily Star wouldn’t have given them house room (“Kaiser Franz has not got a Herr out of place”, “Unleash the Bull!”). Rest of punditry team no better – future Soccer Saturday overlord RODNEY MARSH shipped up a few times and drawled a few cliches, while Emlyn had defected from Question Of Sport to Sporting Triangles, so he was in. Hopeless Wembley-based Purves-led sponsorship campaign for National Power, who were powering the television set we were watching right than. Oh, and commentators included the inimitable JOHN HELM. (“Dearie, dearie me…”)


BBC – It says everything about ITV’s coverage of USA 94 that the BBC managed to thrash them from start to finish, despite Des not really bothering due to Wimbledon, leaving Bob Bloody Wilson in charge most nights. (It also says everything about ITV’s coverage of USA 94 that they headhunted Bob Bloody Wilson straight after the tournament.) Theme music was of course America off of West Side Story, as premiered in BBC2’s Goal TV theme night trailers, with Des and Hill in cowboy hats. High spots include Motty going ape when one of the goals collapses during Mexico v Bulgaria (“That’s one of the BBC’s mini cameras holding the goal up!”) and regular appearances of BADDIEL and SKINNER, in full Alexi Lalas get-up at one point. (Baddiel on Germany’s exit: “Only the whole world’s going yabba-dabba-doo!”). They even got to join in with the proper punditry after Argentina v Bulgaria because it was half past two in the morning and nobody was watching. New breed of pundits include sainted duo of LINEKER and HANSEN in a variety of inadvisable linen collarless suits. Oh, and co-commentators included former England international JOHN FASHANU repeatedly referring to Nigeria as “we” and annoying eeeeeeeeverybody.

ITV – If you don’t want to know the result, look away now. In fact, just look away now. Perhaps the most inept presentation of a sporting event by a British television network ever. Compered by the tanned grinning poltroon MATTHEW LORENZO, in a bunker in Dallas and brought to us, in association with Panasonic and a bunch of annoying facepainted kids, in realistic NTSC-o-Vision. No S&G, but ITV’s charmless pundit line-up nevertheless includes DON HOWE and DENIS LAW (Mooro – “What will the Spanish coach be saying at half-time” Law – “I don’t know, I can’t speak Spanish”). Nasty AOR theme tune, Gloryland by Daryl Hall and Sounds Of Blackness. Oh, and not forgetting regular appearances from behatted karaoke rap goon DR GEEK, whose efforts inspired Howe to perform his own World Cup Rap on primetime television. Those who saw it, will never recover. And they never asked him back.



  1. Gavin

    June 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I’ve heard ITV’s Theme Tune to their Coverage of The World Cup in 1990 on You Tube (Where else?) and I think its quite good. Aswell as having Nessun Dorma The BBC also used Adamski’s “Killer” and The Stone Roses “Elephant Stone for films of the teams taking part.

  2. Glenn A

    June 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Enjoyed reading this, as ever, and thanks for reminding me of Doctor Geek, whose world cup raps were so bad they were good. Actually 1994 from a British point of view was the biggest non event ever: apart from Doctor Geek, watched ten minutes of the final and that was it, same as most people as the weather was too nice and the tournament had as much relevance as a friendly involving Iran and Bangladesh.

  3. Pearlyman

    June 5, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Wasn’t Silsoe just Rod Argent (again) under an assumed name?

  4. Chris Hughes

    June 6, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Like most real football fans, I enjoyed the 1994 World Cup from start to finish, due to some brilliant games, including the amazing Argentina vs Romania second-round match, Brazil vs Holland and Germany v South Korea, fantastic performances from Bulgaria and Romania (step forward Hagi and Stoichkov) and Maradona going nuts against the Greeks. I have never met a football fan who didn’t enjoy this tournament.

    Pearlyman – indeed it was (and he did the ITV theme again in 1990).

  5. Martin M

    June 6, 2010 at 10:24 am

    The 1994 World Cup had some really excellent games but the final was a real disappointment, surely one of the worst ever?

  6. Matthew Rudd

    June 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    The 1994 final was poetry compared to the one four years earlier.

    “It’s only since Cameroon won their independence that polygamy was outlawed!”

  7. Glenn A

    June 6, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    1994 was a low point for ITV Sport as they were still smarting from losing the Premiership to Sky and were regarded as a joke in sporting circles.

  8. David Pascoe

    June 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    ITV’s early coverage of the 1986 tournament was blighted by sound problems. The nadir was reached when they covered the Brazil-Spain match. Brian Moore handed over to Alan Parry or Peter Brackley and was rewarded with silence. As the visuals were in place though, Brian began filling in, intending to hand back to the commentators when the line was restored. Two minutes in, the commentary was back but it had gone again by the 10 minute mark and never returned. Brian had to commentate on the whole match, as well as helm the half and full time debate. It was positively surreal because no crowd noise was coming through either and as a result, Brian never really got into the kind of pitch that he would have done had he actually been at the ground. Brazil’s winning goal, the only one of the match, was greeted with a level of restraint that would have befitted a Royal funeral.

    The 1990 tournament included Terry Venables’s immortal observation of West Germany’s attempts to defend the cross that lead to Gary Lineker’s equaliser: “He’s defended that like a bit of a poof, frankly.”

  9. Chris Hughes

    June 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

    The brilliant thing about that Brazil v Spain match is that ITV had hired Clive Tyldesley, then of Radio City, to sit in LWT for a month as standby commentator, in case of communications breakdowns from Mexico. But because one happened in the first match, they decided they couldn’t kick off ITV’s coverage of the World Cup with some commentator nobody had ever heard of, so they got Mooro to do it.

    Clive went ahead with his commentary anyway, as practice, and it was a good thing it never went out, as Spain (I think) had a goal disallowed, only he didn’t notice and he proceeded to give out the wrong score for the next hour or so.

  10. Richardpd

    January 7, 2022 at 11:52 pm

    I remember BBC1 showed the 1986 World Cup news & highlights show in the 5:35 “Soon to be Neighbours” slot. The titles used that weird video effect that tried to make live action look like a cartoon, but ended up a pixelated attribute clashing mess.

    1990 was probably one of the most iconic thanks to Nessun Dorma, kicking off a few years of everything Italian being cool for a few years. Lots of good games, with only the very dull final spoiling things.

    In spite of none of the home nations qualifying 1994 was also a good World Cup, also fitting the zeitgeist as by the mid 1990s lots of Irish things were to trendy along with Football also shaking off it’s yob image. Mostly good matches again, but some refs were whistle happy. The organisers gambled on travelling fans & expats filling the stadiums, which they did, but as the games were spread over a lot of different cities it much have cost a lot to follow the last 4 countries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top