World of Sport is a British television sport programme which ran on ITV between 2 January 1965 and 28 September 1985 in competition with the BBC‘s Grandstand. Like Grandstand, the programme ran for several hours every Saturday afternoon.
Eamonn Andrews was the first host and the programme itself was “compiled for Independent Television” by ABC Weekend Television. From the summer of 1968 it was produced by London Weekend Television – under the ITV Sport banner, with the other ITV stations supplying footage of events in their regions. Thames Television took over LWT’s responsibilities for Bank Holiday editions. Dickie Davies also took over as host in 1968 and would remain the face of the show until it ended in 1985. Other presenters were Fred Dinenage, Steve Rider and Jim Rosenthal.
The programme’s title was originally Wide World of Sports (much like the US programme), this was changed after about six weeks because all the initial programmes featured sports from within the UK and early Programme Editor John Bromley felt that “Wide” World of Sports would have looked rather silly.
The show included popular segments such as On the Ball (a preview of the day’s football action), the ITV Seven (horse racing), and wrestling with commentator Kent Walton. It also showed sports not seen elsewhere, such as women’s hockey, netball, lacrosse, water skiing and stock car racing or sports that were not popular with the British mainstream, such as NASCAR and ice speedway. It featured bizarre sports like the World Barrel Jumping Championships, and even death-defying stunts.
It often showed show jumping and other equestrian events, especially in its earlier years, and towards the end of its life it showed snooker extensively. ‘Minority’ sports were a feature throughout its run. The BBC had purchased the rights to as many established events as it could. A joke of the period was that the BBC were going through the list of sports in alphabetical order and had run out of cash before it reached wrestling which is how ITV got it.
Two sports in particular, ten-pin bowling and kart racing, benefited from television exposure to a British public hitherto unaware of them. Whilst the majority of ten-pin bowling shown from 1965 onwards focused on regional league competitions in the UK, a surge in popularity in the sport in the UK in the mid-1970s led to footage from the biennial WTBA World Championship, and telecasts from the US Professional Bowlers Tour, being included increasingly in later years (Mark Roth becoming the first bowler to convert a 7 – 10 split on television on January 5, 1980 at the ARC Alameda Open in Alameda, California, was possibly the best-remembered of the US telecasts shown on the programme). British stock car drivers such as Barry Lee also greatly benefited from the show’s exposure.
The programme also occasionally acquired the rights to genuinely major sporting events, such as the Tour de France and the Ryder Cup. Admittedly this was in 1977 when the United States v Great Britain and Ireland match was regarded as something of a mismatch before Europe became the opposition.
During the football season, the programme would normally finish with the Results Service, which began when the full-time whistles started to go in the day’s football matches. Bob Colston read the classified results and he was the only regular results announcer throughout the duration of World of Sport (although between 1983 and 1985 Elton Welsby began alternating with Colston).