5 January ~ Midway through December the Teletext information service was turned off. With Ceefax surviving on the BBC channels until 2012 those yet to embrace the technological revolution still have access to a text information service for the time being. Nonetheless another piece of our collective football past has slipped away. It is hard sometimes to remember just how deprived we were in the pre-Sky age. With Grandstand only occasionally dipping into the Saturday afternoon action before the arrival of Final Score at quarter to five, the best way to follow games was to sit glued to a slowly refreshing black and lime green screen.
For midweek games, unless you caught the sports bulletin on the television or radio, you were effectively left in limbo until the morning papers without Teletext. There can be few fans who do not have memories of frantically refreshing the page five minutes after their club’s game was scheduled to have finished feverishly praying for a last-minute equaliser that never came.
When Sky's arrival in the 1990s meant many had access to more live games, the text services remained invaluable for those not yet signed over to Rupert Murdoch. Personally, I still have painful memories of giving up on a scratchy radio broadcast to follow the 1994 Scottish League Cup final penalty shootout between Celtic and Raith Rovers on Teletext. The tension as each new spot-kick update from Ibrox was revealed was just as agonising as if I'd been there.
The service was especially beneficial to lower league fans who could take a longer look at their table after the token five-second appearance on TV. Checking to see what the day’s results had done to your position became almost a ritual, as if it was not really true you were top of the pile until it had been confirmed in blocky graphics. Although that would be offset by the frustration of finding the tables at page two of eight knowing your club was on page one.
It was not just useful for statistics. How many circulating transfer rumours were scotched by the response “Well, there is nothing on Teletext”? The creation of tittle-tattle had its downside, of course. The pages offering individual club telephone news services teased with such headlines as “International star set for Reds”, but it was only after your premium-rate call that you discovered it was Hungarian midfielder Istvan Kozma rather than Marco van Basten.
There are still those who prefer to communicate over the text message-based chat service rather than message boards, as is borne out by the existence of a near 1,000-strong Facebook group. Not everyone has an internet connection or a WAP enabled phone yet either – plenty of older fans still used the service to keep up to date with the headlines and latest scores. And how often did you flick on Teletext with the TV remote rather than having to fire up your laptop? There is a certain irony, however, that a product which most of will have used primarily in relation to football is killed of by advancing technology when the sport itself is refusing to embracing the modern innovations which some feel could improve the game. Steve Wilson