The 5 Most Iconic UK Sports TV Show Theme Tunes

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They may not have all been number ones but there are some theme tunes out there that will always be fondly remembered, in some cases more than the sports they represented.

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These days, the music used on the main sports shows in the UK seems somewhat generic and, dare I say it, bland. However, there was a time when the carefully-put-together accompanying theme tunes for the biggest sports shows on TV were to be cherished.

Here, we countdown our top 5 most iconic British sporting TV theme tunes.

5. Ski Sunday

It may seem somewhat odd to include a minority sport like skiing in the list but this had to make the top 5. Possibly even more popular than the programme itself, the theme to Ski Sunday is a rambling, stringy composition called ‘Pop Looks Bach’ by Sam Fonteyn.

Originally recorded in 1970, it was also used as the theme tune for the BBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics until the 2006 Games and conjures up memories of dull Sunday afternoons in the late 1980s, for this writer at least.

4. BBC Cricket theme

This rattling, upbeat R&B number is called ‘Soul Limbo’ and is the title track from the seventh studio album brought out by American band Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It was first released in 1968 and was adopted by BBC TV for its cricket coverage and then later for Test Match Special. It’s a bit quirky but has come to define watching cricket and features a marimba solo by Terry Manning and a cowbell performed by Isaac Hayes.

3. BBC Wimbledon theme

Another instantly-recognisable tune which immediately transports the listener into the posh world of strawberries and cream and summer afternoons and evenings watching the world’s best players battle it out on the famous green grass in south London.

The BBC’s opening theme music for Wimbledon, which has been used on TV and radio, was composed by Keith Mansfield and is titled “Light and Tuneful”. It does sound a little outdated now but it’s so traditional it would be a surprise if it’s ever dispensed with for something much more modern and trendy.

2. Formula 1 (Fleetwood Mac – The Chain)

Even though it’s no longer used for the F1 coverage on TV now, many people still associate Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ with the motorsport. The instrumental section of the song was used as the theme tune for both the BBC and Channel 4’s television coverage from as far back as 1978, just a year after the song was released on the band’s huge and critically-acclaimed album Rumours.

The BBC itself described the theme as a “screaming crescendo of guitars” which “gets your heart racing and conjures something daring to flutter in your chest”. A bit like a 100mph-plus car when entering corners and jostling for positions on the home straight then.

1. Match Of The Day

It had to be? Even non-football fans will know the familiar ditty from hearing just the first beat. The soundtrack to many a Saturday night, the current Match Of The Day music has been used since 1970 and was first composed by Barry Stoller. Apparently, his brief back then when coming up with the theme was to record a fanfare representing glory and success.

I think it’s fair to say he achieved it as he managed to create one of the best-loved and one of the most iconic TV theme tunes ever.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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