For most of us who follow football here in the UK, the Sky Sports show Soccer Saturday changed the way that we keep up with the action on a Saturday afternoon. The rule about screening league and cup football on a Saturday is very clear and has been in place for my entire life: no 3pm kick-offs are broadcast live on any UK-based channel. (There was one exception to this rule, the FA Cup Final, but that now kicks off at 5.30pm). The games that are screened in full have lunch-time or evening kick offs.
The format of Soccer Saturday is straightforward. In a studio somewhere in West London a number of ex-professionals watch live feeds from the games and give regular updates to camera. There are also reporters at some of the lower league games. We switch to them occasionally for live pictures, but all we see is the reporter and his or her surroundings, nothing of the pitch itself.
The BBC has a similar offering in the same time slot, called Final Score. A presenter and two ex-footballers are sat in a studio giving live updates and analysis of the games and there are frequent reports from commentators at grounds all over the country. If I’m home, this is the show that I usually follow from around 4pm, first on the Red Button and then on whichever channel it switches to, usually BBC1. I’ll also check for updates on my phone.
Many years ago, before Final Score adopted its current format, and the updates available by phone were less immediate, I often watched Soccer Saturday on Sky. Then, as now, the show was hosted by Jeff Stelling. He seemed unable to describe a match as being goalless or nil-nil. He always used the phrase, “No action as far as goals are concerned”. I recall dozing off in front of the TV on more than one Saturday afternoon and waking repeatedly to the phrase, modified to “Still no action as far as goals are concerned” as the games progressed. Maybe I half-dreamed it, but it seemed like he used one or other phrase hundreds of times in the 120 minutes after 3pm.
In recent years I have only seen Soccer Saturday occasionally, and usually with the sound turned down, in some pub or other. At some point I should check if Jeff still says “No action as far as goals are concerned” as frequently as I remember, but even if he doesn’t it has provided us with a catchphrase that we have used maybe thousands of times. During any match that remains goalless I, my wife, or both of us, will use the phrase many times, and a typical exchange to check on the day’s scores will go as follows:
“What was the score in your game?”
“Don’t you mean, ‘There was no action as far as goals are concerned?’”
“Yes, of course, sorry, that’s exactly what I mean: there was no action as far as goals are concerned.”