COLUMN: Love them or hate them, you can’t deny Sky Sports have changed the way we watch sport on TV

Brighton and Hove Albion FC v Leeds United.Leeds fans protest against Sky TV.29th February 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Brighton and Hove Albion FC v Leeds United.Leeds fans protest against Sky TV.29th February 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Who would have thought that watching people watching matches on a Saturday afternoon for up to six hours could be so much fun?

Chances are, not many people.

But despite this, Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday is as popular as it has ever been.

Jeff Stelling and his mates not only bring us the up-to-date scores.

They sprinkle it with laughter and fun, which is what sport is all about isn’t it? If not then it should be.

This week Sky Sports celebrated 25 years of being on our screens.

Plenty of opinion is divided as to whether its impact has been good or bad on not just football but all other sports in this country.

Some say it’s emergence has created the armchair fan that exists today, with people more content to stay at home rather than trek out to their local stadium.

There’s also the very valid argument of the emergence of the Premier League and the impact that money has had on the game, but that’s another argument for another time.

Others though boast that it has brought a sharp eye to the experience of watching sport, with a wealth of experts to bring into focus the key aspects of live sport.

The impact that Sky Sports has had in its maiden 25 years has been monumental (and in some cases damaging) for most sports in this country.

It has introduced new sports to the British mainstream and magnified those on our shores to such a degree that it sometimes seems there is almost too much analysis and probing.

But despite its faults it has been able to tap into a lucrative market here in the UK.

Before its emergence, who would have thought that there would be a 24-hour news channel dedicated solely to rolling sports news?

Or that for two-and-a-half weeks a year a particular channel would pack its schedule entirely full of darts?

Sport is big business and that shows no signs of abating.

As powerful and dominant Sky have been, there’s no doubting that a huge watershed moment came last year when they lost rights to the UEFA Champions League.

The company had ploughed so much into the competition and were masters of broadcasting the event, with an excellent line-up of presenters, pundits and broadcasters.

To go from having every single game live to not even having highlights was a stark contrast and one made even worse with BT Sport also stealing a chunk of Premier League matches too.

Of course new rivals will always emerge and try to steal a piece of the pie, and BT look as though they pose the biggest threat that Sky Sports has ever experienced in its quarter of a century.

But while the future may be uncertain, one thing that can be agreed is that Sky Sports has set the bar for sports broadcasting in this country.

For football fans, watching Jeff and his pals on a Saturday has become a ritual.

Here’s to the next 25 years.