MONDAY is a big day for the Associated-TeleVision back-room boys who have been putting out their popular Seeing Sport programme over the Independent network for just a year.
This first birthday is in itself some measure of the appeal of the programme.
For confirmation, just take the letters which flow into the Seeing Sport office… anything between 300 and 400 letters fan mail, queries and answers to competitions — are brought into Television House every week for the Monday sports-spot team.
Within two days of a telecast on judo, there were 1,500 letters in the office from viewers asking for addresses of clubs, and when next the programme was going to feature judo. That record mail surprised even commentator Peter Lloyd, who used to direct and produce the show until Tony Flanagan took over from him.
Peter Lloyd said: “When Tony Flanagan and I took over we decided to focus on seven sports.
“We started with soccer, swimming, table tennis, riding, athletics, cricket and ice skating. Taking each sport in turn, we got experts to talk about equipment, training, coaching, and the right and wrong ways of doing things.
“We always go for the top people in every sport.” That’s where Associated TeleVision sports chief, John Graydon, comes in. Graydon, a leading sports journalist before he went into television, arranges the guest star personalities… and, as Lloyd says, “the best.”
Walter Winterbottom, manager of the England football team; Alf Price, swimming’s Olympic team boss; Alf Gover, once an England fast bowler; A.A.A. coach Geoff Dyson, and ex-world table tennis champion, Johnny Leach; all have given the benefit of their experience and skill to Seeing Sport’s young audience.
Once the sport is decided and the guest star arranged. Lloyd and Flanagan begin the outline of the programme. Interviews, demonstrations and close-ups of the important points are slotted together, and one rehearsal follows another.
The effort is worthwhile. Television is quick to make – and equally quick to break. Certainly, too, this ATV trio know the dangers which go with catering for a knowledgeable and critical audience. I know the bulk of Seeing Sport’s viewers are children — but who are quicker to spot errors?
Lloyd and Flanagan trade on those sharp eyes and ears. Each week a deliberate mistake is eased into the show. It does not creep by unnoticed. That’s where the letters come in — in heaps. In return, the sender of the first right answer opened gets a prize suitable for that particular sport.
Flanagan was operating a BBC camera in 1947 when Lloyd was one of six would-be commentators being tested.
Lloyd told me: “We were numbered from one to six, and viewers were asked to say who they thought was the best. By some miracle, they chose me.”
Since then he’s tackled almost every kind of sports commentary. Yet his most harassing job was not connected with sport.
Lloyd was one of the team waiting to meet Liberace on his arrival in England.
Well, that’s the team and they’re doing fine for my money. Happy birthday!