Most people associate watching football in the 21st century with going to a soccer stadium, listening to the commentary on the radio or watching the match live on TV, but people rarely mention other alternative viewing. Is this because it is seen as uncool and not classed as following a soccer match properly?
Since the introduction of Ceefax in the 1970s and other technological improvements in the 1990s (like sky/cable television and the internet), there have been other alternative ways to keep track on how a team is getting on which has a kind of ?cult? feeling to it.
The oldest alternative viewing to the traditional avenues is Ceefax (phonetic for ?See Facts?), which was introduced by the BBC in 1974 (who at he time were working on ways of providing television subtitles for the deaf). Their system was the first teletext system in the world. It was a basic information system with the absence of sound, pictures, or anybody giving your basic information.
It was basically simple pages of blue-and-white text that you could access via your television remote. But what does this have to do with football? Well the Ceefax service holds information on a wide range of topics, such as News, Sport, Weather, TV Listings and Business and these pages are kept up to date (usually being the first to report a breaking story or headline).
Most people in the British Isles that you speak to have in the past used Ceefax on a match day (especially before the development of the internet). Everybody looks at football scores on Ceefax as it is the original internet. People will leave Ceefax on in their living rooms on a Saturday afternoon to keep track of how their team is doing and will wait anxiously for the blue-and-white text on the screen to refresh hoping that their team holds on in the dying minutes or scores that dramatic last minute equaliser. Some people are anxious whilst starring at the blue-and-white text and I have know people to spend a large part of the match sat in front of their TV waiting for the black rectangles to change in favour of their team.
Some people would argue that it is sad to sit in front of your TV waiting for the screen to refresh, but it is surprisingly engrossing. If all you are interested in is the score, then it is the ideal medium. Think about it this way, you have no annoying adverts, no annoying analysis from inapt soccer commentators and just the scores which you are interested in. With the plans to replace all analogue TV signals with digital in the British Isles for 2008, sadly this alternative viewing is going to disappear.
A similar version to Ceefax has developed on the internet over the past decade due to technological improvements. There are many versions of the TV Ceefax system on the internet in one form or another and usually comes under the form of ?Live Scores?. If you do a simple search on the internet for soccer Live Scores you will be amazed at how many sites are returned in the results. In essence it is just a modern day version of Ceefax.
Instead of sitting in front of your TV watching Ceefax refresh you are sat in front of your computer watching an internet site refresh. There is no real difference in the service which is provided, just the fact that it is coming from a different medium. Like with the Ceefax service, if you ask most soccer fans in the British Isles who use the internet, they will be able to name a site they use to keep track of their team on match day. If you were to pick out differences between the two it would be the fact that websites take advantage over the number of people accessing the site by placing advertisements alongside the scores.
During the 1990s, Sky Sports was launched in the British Isles and their introduction was to have a massive impact on soccer. Sky revolutionised soccer with their live matches, showing live games on Friday?s, Sunday?s and Monday?s. Sky also introduced a live manned version of Ceefax called Sky Sports Saturday. Their service is just an advanced version of Ceefax on a match day, with an anchorman and various ex professional soccer players talking about the action as it happens.
All that Sky have done is taken hold of Ceefax and expanded on it. They use ex professional soccer players to provide key moments from one of the matches they are watching and they then report back to the anchorman, telling him that player X has just won a free-kick but it?s still 0-0 at Old Trafford. Admittedly it is more interesting then sat watching blue-and-white text refresh as it tells you more, but at the end of the day it is still a basic score service. I would say their service (which is similar to the one that the BBC run) is an overly-manned version of Ceefax with a human face.
The last alternative version to watching soccer is live commentaries which various websites provide. Again this is just another basic version of Live Scores and Ceefax. You will visit a website and have the option to watch live commentary on a match of your choice. It will give you details of the match action as it happens like ?attacking throw-in Chelsea Cole right channel?, but like the other services the score will remain the same.
Soccer fans will class watching Ceefax, Live Scores and Live Commentary as not properly following a soccer match, but to some people this alternative viewing adds more entertainment to the match day. Instead of watching a dire 0-0 match being played out on TV, it is sometimes more entertaining listening to the moans and groans of an ex professional on Sky Sports Saturday as he describes players missing chance after chance. Also alternative viewing gives fans of lower leagues clubs a chance to see how their team is getting on as they are not given the same TV/radio coverage as the more illustrious clubs. Alternative viewing might be seen as uncool by certain fans, but to many it is still cult viewing.
Steven Gore is the editor of SoccerManager.com, the free online soccer game
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