Time runs out for Soccer AM as Sky Sports pulls plug on programme

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Soccer AM, the TV show that initially surfed the mid-90s boom in football and lads’ mags culture before becoming a well-loved staple of Sky Sports’ Saturday mornings, is to be scrapped after nearly 30 years.

Staff were told on Tuesday that the 90-minute programme, which launched in 1995, would end on 27 May. According to reports, Saturday Social, which previously aired before Soccer AM, will fill the vacant slot from next season with an aim of attracting younger viewers.

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Soccer AM attracted big names and ratings during its 28-year run, with interviews with top players, politicians such as Gordon Brown – who displayed his deep knowledge of Raith Rovers’ starting XIs – and pop stars such as Noel Gallagher.

However, it was also controversial. The Soccerette feature – where a young female modelled the kit of her team to wolf whistles – was abandoned in 2015 amid criticism it was exploitative. Soccerettes invited on to the show were often asked about their marital status – if they replied “single”, they would usually get a huge cheer.

In its peak years, under the hosts Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain, millions enjoyed the show’s mix of highlights, zany humour and quirky features. One such item, Skill Skool, showcased the skills of young players such as the future England stars Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson.

The show has also been credited with getting a gold star on England’s football shirt to commemorate them winning the World Cup in 1966.

As Lovejoy told the Athletic in 2020: “I wanted to make a football show that you could enjoy without liking football. It was people having fun, and I’ve always thought that’s what TV should be. There were a couple of people who worked on the show who really, really loved football and took it really seriously but my thinking was ‘hold on, football’s about entertainment and having a good time’. The more political side of it all, to me, wasn’t something I was interested in.”

The show continued to be successful after Lovejoy was replaced by Max Rushden in 2008 but in recent years its ratings and influence has plummeted.

A Sky spokesperson hinted at the closure in a statement. “Soccer AM has played an important role in our coverage of football for the past three decades, and we continually adapt to the evolving needs of our customers,” she said. “We now go into a period of consultation to discuss the proposed changes with our people. We are unable to provide more detail while these consultations are under way.”