Finally see Jan Molby’s mythical Lost GoalBy: Rob | November 2nd, 2009
That’s a good goal, isn’t it? Jan Molby scoring for Liverpool against Manchester United in a League Cup tie in 1985. You might wonder why exactly it deserves a blog post on a monday morning 24 years later though. Well, its because Molby’s goal was thought to be lost forever, due to a TV Strike. Far from these modern times when goals are very ready to us, the mid-80s were a different time indeed.
Most had given up on ever actually seeing Molby’s goal for real, and in telling and retelling the goal has found mythical status. But now, you can see and judge for yourself, at long last.
So, might be time for a bit of backstory
It seems strange now, in a world where TV channels live (Sky really took off from a combination of live football and exclusive Simpsons) or die (Setanta) by live football coverage, but live football wasn’t always atop the agenda.
In the UK, football highlights finally arrived in the late 1960s, through Match of the Day. MotD would be shown on a Saturday night on the proviso they wouldn’t advertise which matches were on (easier in a pre-all-information-age) in advance, in a bid to make sure people still went to the matches live.
ITV, meanwhile showed highlights of the local teams on a Sunday morning. (In those days of course all matches kicked off at 3 on a Saturday).
In the late 70s, ITV made an audacious bid for the TV rights on a Saturday, dubbed Snatch of the Day by the press, and the two alternated seasons for a few years.
But as the 80s kicked on, and after various World Cups and European Championships had shown live football an exciting event, demand was naturally growing. In 83, BBC nabbed rights to show Live Football on a Friday night, while ITV got games on a Sunday (so people would still go to the Saturday matches, live football on a Saturday was forbidden)
But football’s image in England was dropping badly. The English Disease became the nickname for hooliganism as riots broke out all across the country. Eventually this culminated in the Heysel disaster, where rioting Liverpool fans called the death of 39 people, largely Juventus fans, before a European Cup Final televised throughout Europe. English clubs were kicked out of Europe and football attendance was at an all time low.
By the mid-80s, clubs were getting more and more business minded. In 1985, they turned down a joint offer from ITV and BBC to show live matches on Fridays and Sundays respectively. The offer was for £16m spread across the 92 clubs. They wanted more.
The chairmen knew that live football was worth more than that, but the BBC and ITV doubted it, as football’s image was so poor. ITV and the BBC refused to pay more, and so, for the first time since the late 1960s, there was absolutely no football on TV.
None. No highlights, no live games, nothing. Imagine such a horrible world. Gives me the creeps.
Thats when Molby scored his goal, during the blackout, talked up by those who were there as one of the great goals, but otherwise lost forever. Untill now, anyway.
But a video has been found thanks to Molby himself and Big Ron Atkinson. And Molby’s goal can be celebrated like it deserves to be.
By Christmas the dispute over TV rights had be solved, and by January, football was back on TV. But the damage done was huge, and it led the way for Chairmen to form a breakaway league (what we now know as the Premier League) funded by absurd amounts of money by Sky, who were taking notes through the whole thing.
It was inevitable, and changed English football irrevocably. Sky pumped an absurd amount of money into the top league, and with its help, it became the most watched league on Earth.
It is a fascinating tale, I think. In some ways inevitable. At least one of the great goals of the time isn’t lost forever.