Blackpool 0-1 Bolton Wanderers (lost footage of Football League First Division match; 1960)

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Programme for the match.

Status: Lost

On 10th September 1960, Blackpool hosted Bolton Wanderers for a 1960/61 Football League First Division match. Occurring in front of 17,166 at Bloomfield Road, the match was ultimately won by the visitors 1-0. It made television history for being the first live televised English Football League game, with ITV also set to broadcast more games live that same season after having signed a 26-match deal with the Football League. However, the encounter proved a mediocre affair, which combined with several clubs boycotting the agreement over conflict surrounding the Football League's refusal to share the £150,000 with its teams, forced ITV to abandon its project.


Heading into the match, both Blackpool and Bolton were battling to avoid relegation to the Second Division.[1] Back in 1953, both club were considered some of the biggest in the English game, with Blackpool winning that year's FA Cup Final against Bolton 4-3.[2][3][4] However, the teams were deemed shadows of their former selves by the turn of the decade.[4][2] Meanwhile, ITV had for years been seeking to make history by providing the first live coverage of a Football League game.[5] However, this was previously met by firm resistance by Football League officials and the clubs themselves, who had been concerned that televising League games would reduce ground attendance.[6]

As far back as 25th October 1947, the BBC had planned to televise the second-half of Charlton Athletic's game against Chelsea live.[7][8] The broadcaster received approval from both clubs weeks prior, and the broadcast was promoted in Issue 1,253 of Radio Times.[7][8] The BBC had started negotiations with the Football League in September 1946; the League later provided a press statement where it decreed that televising matches would depend on agreements between the BBC and individual clubs.[7] However, the League's Secretary Fred Howarth denied this statement, and ultimately, the Management Committee denied permission to televise League matches.[7] On 7th October, the League informed the clubs of their decision.[7] Initially, the BBC continued its arrangement with Charlton and Chelsea after a deal was reached before the October announcement.[7] Plans were thwarted when a telegram was sent by Howarth stating "Televising of Charlton match October forbidden. Signed - League".[7]

On 22nd September 1955, ITV was founded. A year prior, the BBC, concerned with the potential rise of a competitor, made a £250,000 offer to the Football League to televise League matches.[9] The offer was quickly withdrawn as it was deemed cost prohibitive for the broadcaster.[9] Meanwhile, after successfully televising matches such as the 1956 Southern Junior Floodlight Cup Final live, ITV also held ambitions of televising League games.[10][9][11] The two broadcasters would then enter a bidding war to partially cover matches; ITV franchises ATV and ABC were offering big clubs like Manchester United £1,000 for every match it was allowed to televise, helping to recover a loss in gate revenue that often topped £3,000.[9] The BBC's offer meanwhile was initially to televise only ten matches for £1,500 per broadcast, the limited coverage it claimed would placate clubs' concerns by avoiding over-saturating the market with excessive football airings.[9][6]

Eventually, the smaller clubs proved influential in the BBC securing a 75-match deal where, for one season, it could broadcast five minutes per game past 10pm.[9] The agreement upset bigger teams such as Newcastle United, who were considering joining a different league in protest.[9] ITV attempted to capitalise on this by proposing a ten-team floodlit league where numerous matches would be broadcast, but the Football League forbid any of its teams from competing in it.[9] Nevertheless, ITV persevered in reaching its objectives, and prior to the 1960/61 season, struck a £150,000 deal with the League where it would cover 26 matches live.[11][5] The initial game would feature Blackpool hosting Bolton on 10th September 1960, as part of the program The Big Game.[5][11][4]

The Match and the ITV Broadcast

Even before the match commenced, problems arose.[5][11][4] While the Football League were satisfied with the financial backing it received, it had overlooked its clubs' monetary demands.[5] Tottenham Hotspur, who were set to have their match with Aston Villa be showcased a fortnight later, announced it would renege on the broadcast following a financial disagreement with the League.[5][11] Arsenal swiftly followed, as did nine other teams in quick succession.[5][11] Thus, ITV were now counting on the success of the Blackpool-Bolton game to change the clubs' minds.[5][4] However, the Seasiders suddenly lost their star player Stanley Matthews to a leg injury.[5][2][11][4] It led to the Daily Express downplaying the chances of the game proving appealing to the masses, stating "A leg injury keeps out Stanley Matthews, the only player capable of putting £150,000 sparkle into a match which lacks crowd-pulling appeal".[5][2] Nevertheless, ITV proceeded with the match, placing its main camera behind one of the goals. Its plan was to join the action prior to half-time, before televising the entirety of the second-half on the ABC and ATV networks.[5][4][2] This was to provide viewers ample time to be present for the broadcast on a Saturday evening.[5][4]

Ultimately, the match proved disastrous for ITV's project.[5][11][4][2] The encounter occurred in front of 17,166, around only half attendance, and considerably below Bloomfield Road's average attendance.[2][4][11][6] Blackpool struggled throughout the game, with its forwards failing to generate many opportunities for the hosts.[2] The majority of chances were created by Bolton's Billy McAdams and Ray Parry, with the home side's goalkeeper Tony Waiters being forced to make numerous saves.[2] Despite his and left-half Sammy Salt efforts, the latter awarded Man of the Match for his defensive endeavours, it was the visitors who came away victorious courtesy of a Freddie Hill goal.[2] The game failed to appeal to critics, with The Daily Mirror stating that the decision to film action behind one of the goals made the pitch look "200 yards wide and only 50 yards long", while also criticising the commentary provided by Peter Lloyd and Billy Wright for generally misidentifying players and for overrating the game's quality.[4][5][2]

The boycotting clubs, unimpressed with the match, the low television rating, and how the broadcast seemingly was responsible for reduced ground attendance, remained firm with their decision.[5][6][11][4][2] ITV were therefore forced to abandon its project after just one game.[11][2] Arsenal's decision meant ITV missed out on televising the North London club's 5-0 win over Newcastle a week later, which potentially could have convinced critics of the benefits surrounding live League coverage.[4][11] It would not be until 2nd October 1983 that another League game, featuring Tottenham beating Nottingham Forest 2-1, was televised live.[4][2] Regular live coverage would commence in 1992, after Sky Sports successfully bid for the television rights of the fledging Premier League.[12] Meanwhile, both Blackpool and Bolton narrowly survived relegation to the Second Division, Blackpool having condemned Newcastle to that fate by just one point.[1]


Ultimately, the broadcast has never publicly resurfaced. ITV's football broadcast archive is patchy, with notable airings such as the 1967 FA Cup Final known to be missing.[13] Ultimately, according to ITV Sport, its archive only contains highlights or full matches of English Football League games from 1968 onwards.[14] This evidence indicates it no longer holds the 1960 broadcast. No other footage of the match has re-materialised.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 English Football League Tables detailing the 1960/61 First Division table. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Blackpool Gazette summarising the game and how it ended ITV's project prematurely. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  3. FA Cup Finals detailing the 1953 FA Cup Final. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 The Sportsman detailing how the match broadcast failed to appeal to critics or to encourage ground attendance, causing boycotting clubs to remain firm on their decisions. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 The Blizzard: The Football Quarterly Issue Eight detailing ITV's deal to broadcast matches as part of The Big Game, the clubs withdrawing over monetary disputes, and how the Blackpool-Bolton match forced the end of the project. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Football 365 summarising the resistance Football League officials and clubs had over televising League games, which ultimately somewhat materialised from the Blackpool-Bolton broadcast. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Paul Hayes providing documents detailing the BBC's thwarted attempt to televise Charlton Athletic vs Chelsea live. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues detailing the BBC's planned broadcast of Charlton Athletic vs Chelsea that never materialised. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Domaining Guide detailing the prelude to ITV's live coverage of a League game, including its battle with the BBC to gain television right in the 1950s and its ambitions to create a floodlight league. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  10. From the Back Page to the Front Room detailing ITV's earlier coverage of matches. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 Sit Down and Cheer detailing ITV's £150,000 contract to televise 26 League games live, and how it was forced to back down after one game. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  12. Premier League Archive detailing Sky Sports' coverage of the Premier League starting from 1992. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  13. Missing Episodes discussing other lost ITV football broadcasts, including the 1967 FA Cup Final. Retrieved 11th Oct '22
  14. ITV Sport Archive noting it only holds English Football League matches from 1968 onwards. Retrieved 11th Oct '22