R is for radio…
For some, the radio remains a magical medium unsurpassed by the TV as far as football is concerned. Those who still cherish the fuzzy sound and required use of the imagination treat it almost like sports broadcasting’s own version of vinyl.
Even for those who don’t rank its charms above the visual medium and all its innovations, it’s hard not to see how others might regard it as a special way of enjoying a match.
There’s an element of intimacy and trust between the blinded listener and the all-seeing radio commentator, whose voice becomes the sole focus of the coverage. The speaker’s tone, emotions and any idiosyncrasies they may have all meld into the description of the action. Words and inflections turn into additional subtle complexities in amongst the intricate dribbles and dashes taking place on the unseen field beyond the microphones.
Radio football has also spawned its own range of sub-genres: the post-match fan phone-ins, personality fuelled staged argument shows and specialist stations such as TalkSport and their ilk. These formats now rule the airwaves, both on a national and local level.
Yet the intimacy of radio is also part of the appeal. In the upper echelons of the Premier League, the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea may be covered by stations based in the rough vicinity of the clubs and their traditional supporter base but lower down the table and in the leagues beneath the top-flight, the relationship between local radio and local teams can be something far more involved and inter-connected. The natural alliance of a town’s radio station and football club on a match day can neatly sum up the concentrated identity of a location in a way that other methods never could.
Radio still serves a function within the grounds too, even today. In the cauldron of a football stadium, wifi and phone signals can be lost meaning that a wireless can be the only way supporters living on the knife edge of championships and relegations can learn their fate, first-hand. Cometh the final day of the season, cometh the boom box.
Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.
Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.