THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

Comments (11)
Comment by Homer 2010-01-05 13:19:37

THE BBC digital version of ceefax IS rubbish for nonleague football step2 and 3 [conference north and northern premier] .

itv teletext gave us results, tables and fixtures for step2 and 3 and was a useful resource.
I always have problems getting info for these leagues as they lie BETWEEN the "big" leagues (conference national and above have info on 302) AND the "little" leagues (unibond north and below appear on 3930 or 399)

Comment by ian.64 2010-01-05 13:27:54

The best thing about Teletext's football news was an immediacy the BBC's Ceefax could never really match. Any developments on club, manager or player were followed up so quickly that the Beeb was still left standing at the first hurdle. A speculation on a player transfer, for example, could be resolved in a day by Teletext while Ceefax still couldn't follow up the story and left it to become stale.

The drawback of ITV Teletext? Its 'Footy-Chat' pages where texts about the game quickly became annoying pissing contests between moron fans of the big clubs, who could challenge the goodwill of anyone by indulging in boring historical oneupmanship arguments, dragging out their 'honours and trophies' enmities until they bored the teeth off everyone else. This daily 'my dad's car's bigger than your dad's car' approach to football discourse was a pain in the arse and its end can be seen as a side-benefit of Teletext's demise, terminating a platform for some people's bumpkin views on football.

Even a cloud has its silver lining.

Comment by Jongudmund 2010-01-05 15:49:46

"refusing to embracing the modern innovations which some feel could improve the game."

Key word there is "some". I'm not convinced that video refs etc will improve the game.

Loved the references to TeamTalk phonelines though. I'd almost forgotten about them.

The thing about teletext (or ceefax) was that often results pages scrolled through incredibly slowly. So there was always that added bit of tension as you waited for your club to come up. Half the thrill was the agonising mixture of hope and fear.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-01-05 18:14:59

I saw that Teletext was going but assumed this was just for analogue TV and didn't realise it would cover digital as well. As mentioned, it is a right old hassle to get the lap top powered up and then look at the scores while still watching the TV.
The BBC digital service is a very poor relative of CEEFAX. I remember summer holidays spent looking at page 312 (news in brief) seeing if there was any mention of Norwich or Lincoln and the joy when a line or two popped up relating to them.

Comment by battylad 2010-01-05 18:19:26

It was my saviour earlier this season - wrote bout it here:

http://keepfighting.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/communication-breakdown/

Comment by MarcB 2010-01-05 23:24:31

Page the Oracle - and listen to commentary on Club Call hoping yr ma wouldn't twig why the phone bill was so high in the days before itemised bills. Interactive text is a pain in the arse - takes so long to load up

Comment by Spadowski 2010-01-06 01:17:01

When I moved to Canada in 1996, the biggest cultural shock for me wasn't food, people or anything... It was that they had NOTHING like Ceefax and Teletext! I felt absolutely lost without it.

I remember following Nigel Mansell's Indycar career via Ceefax as it was the only way to get the race results.

Sad to see it go.

Comment by Nurse Duckett 2010-01-06 10:31:35

THE BBC digital version of ceefax IS rubbish, full stop.

Any system that splits a cricket scoreboard over 2 pages for the sake of style has lost the plot.

(Maybe I should state an interest - I used to be gainfully employed developing software for analogue teletext systems - but even so...)

Comment by Cameramouse 2010-01-06 12:19:29

Ah Teletext and Ceefax. So many happy memories of following Blackburn over the years via both services.

My best memory is when they let us down. My girlfriend and I sat up till 2am, refreshing like mad one transfer deadline night, praying to see that Dwight Yorke had indeed been transferred out of Rovers so we'd never have to see his big grin after failing to run for the ball again. Despite our best efforts neither Teletext or Ceefax came up with the goods that night and we had to wait till morning for the great news to ring through the land via the paper.

Ceefax often came up with a gem or two of injury news, such as the time it reported Dominic Matteo was having the juice from turkeys necks injected into his knees. Blackburn then of course rushed out to sign him.

In more recent years I've happily reached for the laptop to keep up to date via BBC's brilliant football hub with its many live commentaries, gossip page, easily selectable tables etc.

But well done Ceefax and Teletext for showing the way for so many years...you did a grand job and were very much loved.

Comment by bearlion 2010-01-06 13:48:34

One (very) quiet Sunday I followed a complete Warwickshire game on Ceefax. Dominic Ostler got some runs I think.

Comment by George at asda 2010-01-07 14:26:23

"Yes, we have no Bamboozle, We have-a no Bamboozle today."

From the show "How'r Oldham doin"

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