The Big Match was a British football television programme, screened on ITV between 1968 and 1992.
The Big Match originally launched on London Weekend Television, screening highlights of Football League matches. Other ITV regions had their own shows, but would show The Big Match if they were not covering their own match – particularly often in the case of Southern and HTV. The programme was set up in part as a response to the increased demand in televised football following the 1966 FIFA World Cup and partly as an alternative to the BBC‘s own football programme, Match of the Day. The Big Match launched the media career of Jimmy Hill, who appeared on the programme as an analyst, and made Brian Moore one of the country’s leading football commentators.
The Big Match originally screened match highlights on Sunday afternoons while Match of the Day screened them on Saturday evenings. But in 1978, Michael Grade at London Weekend Television audaciously won exclusive rights to all league football coverage for ITV in a move termed “Snatch of the Day”. Although the Office of Fair Trading blocked the move, the BBC were forced to allow ITV to take over the Saturday night slot in alternating seasons. This new arrangement began with the 1980-81 season.
ITV’s regional-based coverage of football ended in 1983, with The Big Match becoming the sole football highlights programme on ITV. ITV’s football coverage expanded throughout the 1980s, particularly after ITV won exclusive league rights in 1988, after which The Big Match was renamed simply The Match.
After ITV lost rights to the new Premier League to British Sky Broadcasting and the BBC in 1992, the programme was axed by the network.
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