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Indoor League

1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 8 (UK)

indoorleague_003Indoor League was broadcast on ITV at Sunday lunchtime in the mid 1970s. It was hosted by former England fast bowler Fred Trueman, who – being from Yorkshire – knew what he liked and liked what he bloody well knew!

The show was a homage to pub sports – bar billiards, darts, skittles, Table Football and shove ha’penny – and pre-dated the mass popularity of snooker and darts.

In many ways, Indoor League paved the way for the acceptance of these activities as sports by the British telly-viewing public.

Broadcasting from a pretend pub (complete with life-size cartoons of people in flares), Trueman (a pipe in one hand and a pint in t’other) greeted viewers with a brusque “Now then” and said farewell to us with a rugged “Ahl si thee!”

indoorleague_02But there was more to Indoor League than pipes and pints – and questionable cardigans and northern gruffness. The sports which were showcased each week demanded great skill.

Consider shove ha’penny. The great darts commentator Sid Waddell once said that “shove ha’penny demands more concentration than darts, but the touch must be as light as a butterfly’s eyelash”.

Trueman himself claimed that shove ha’penny was a game that “matches the skill and dexterity of the miniature portrait painter”.

Both Waddell and Trueman were themselves great players of the pub game that was invented in the 16th century and referred to by Shakespeare somewhere as ‘shove grout’.

Pub sports are now watched by millions of Britons on television. They no longer need to take place in pubs.