BBC Archive releases Football Legends interviews

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Whenever we discuss our collections, we often find ourselves having to explain why some programmes can't be included because of rights issues. Whatever the problems are in clearing acquired footage, the situation becomes much harder when we begin to look at sports footage. Although the BBC broadcasts hundreds of hours of sporting events each year, the rights to rebroadcast the footage often rests with the sporting bodies - such as the FA or FIFA - and of course, that clip of the winning goal or fastest lap comes at a premium.

Part of our job is to find ways around such issues and last year we decided to look to radio to see if there were any interviews with some sporting heroes of the past. As luck would have it, there was a whole series of interviews broadcast under the banner Football Legends between 1995 and 1999. Former Blackpool FC and England player Jimmy Armfield met up with other footballers to discuss their careers and find out what had happened after their glory days had passed. It was a perfect fit for what we were looking for. Plus, we could sidestep having to explain why we hadn't picked other legends like George Best or more modern players. These are the ones Jimmy Armfield interviewed and we're releasing every edition from all three runs of the series - there are no more.

In the past, we've always released our collections in one go, but for this one we decided to publish it in three stages, beginning with those interviewees who'd been in the 1966 England squad. The second wave contains older players, including Sir Stanley Matthews, while the third wave features stars of the 1970s such as Pat Jennings, Denis Law and Kevin Keegan. The extra-special circumstance that makes this release so timely is of course the World Cup, and a staged release allows us to rotate the promotions of the other interviews and keep the mix fresh as the tournament progresses. We may do this again with future collections, so tell us if you think it's a good idea.

As archivists, not all of us are the most sports-minded of people, but each of us has our favourites from this collection. Gordon Banks stands out - he continued as a goalkeeper even after he lost an eye. There's Stanley Matthews, of course, who was playing professional football into his sixth decade. And surely every footballing childhood of the 1970s still has a special place for the wiry genius of Denis Law or the bubble-permed Kevin Keegan?

It's interesting to contrast the styles of conversation of these men with modern players. We don't think it's too unfair to note that each of the older stars seems more articulate than those who followed. Perhaps it's because they had lives outside of football, or maybe it's simply that, as men at the end of their careers, they've had time to assess their position in the world rather than simply focusing breathlessly on the match in hand. But in an age before such concepts as media training, each of these men has a fascinating tale to tell - and the ability to tell their story well.

Steve Darling is a producer on the BBC Archive

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