Did one man change modern football worldwide?

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1. The Sky Blue thinker

We are used to the game of football having highly paid stars, playing in all-seater stadiums full of entertainment, being kept abreast of the thoughts of ex-players and experts in the hot seats after games. Could most of what is commonplace in modern football worldwide be attributed to one man – Jimmy Hill?

The son of a milkman from south London, Jimmy Hill spent his early career playing professional football as an inside-forward for Brentford and Fulham, retiring at the age of 33.

Jimmy left the pitch and moved to the dugouts, becoming Coventry City’s Football manager from 1961-1967. Upon his arrival, the club was floundering in the Third Division. His transformation on and off the pitch led them proudly to the First Division within six seasons.

2. Footballer wages

In 1960 the average household salary in the UK was just under £1,000 and the cost of a pint of milk was 3p. Jimmy Hill was the Chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA). He led the campaign for the scrapping of maximum fees for professional footballers. At the time, footballers’ salaries were capped at £20 a week.

Jimmy led the campaign and in 1961, days before a threatened strike, an agreement was made and capped fees were abolished. Jimmy’s old teammate and England captain Johnny Hayes became the first to earn £100 a week on the pitch.

In the years that have followed footballers’ wages have soared. They can now earn in a week 10 times what the average household earns in a year. Wayne Rooney is reportedly paid £300,000 a week by Manchester United.

3. The Sky Blue Revolution

In late 1961, Jimmy took up the role of football manager at Coventry City Football Club. During his time as manager and later as chairman, he oversaw a visionary change at the city’s Highfield Road stadium. Many ideas that started at the ground were quickly adopted by others and many are commonplace today.

In 1962, Jimmy led a re-branding exercise for the club, dubbed the Sky Blue Revolution. It included club hospitality, an all Sky Blue kit, a Sky Blues song, Sky Blue radio, a mascot and even a Sky Blue cocktail to celebrate promotion in 1967.

Press Association

In 1961 Coventry players were banned from media interviews. The ban was lifted immediately on Jimmy’s arrival. He was the first to invite camera crews into the ground and allow interviews. Other football teams soon followed.

Press Association

Jimmy Hill wanted to put the supporters at the heart of the club to provide entertainment for the whole family. Children were welcomed into the stands for pop and crisps and the chart toppers from the hit parade were invited to perform.

In 1964 Highfield Road had the country’s first electronic scoreboard. In 1965 it was also the first to show a live match via CCTV from Cardiff at the Coventry ground on four giant screens. They also had their own Sky Blue radio station.

Press Association

The Sky Blues introduced the first colour match day programme. ‘The Sky Blue’ was seen as ahead of its field and won programme of the year awards for the 67-68, 68-69 and 69-70 seasons.

Quick to jump on the abandonment of the old steam trains, Jimmy Hill and the Sky Blues were the first to charter their own Sky Blue Special trains to away matches.

With Jimmy Hill as chairman, Highfield Road became the first English all-seater stadium in 1981. The Hillsborough disaster and the Taylor Report in 1990 led all major football stadiums to remove standing terraces in England, Wales and Scotland.

Press Association

4. Supporters first and the feel good factor

Jimmy was one of the first people to recognise that supporters came first, he embraced it. Football’s not just a game. Evidence shows that productivity improved when the Sky Blues were playing well. Car productivity was always higher when the Sky Blues were winning!

Andrew Dawes, De Montfort University

"Hill was extraordinary because, with the support of his chairman, Derrick Robins, he completely transformed a football club and, in doing so, helped further boost a city’s morale. He was pioneering in his idea that supporters should be put first and was unrelenting in using any means to make the club seem appealing. He was also an inspirational manager.

Coventry was a prosperous place to live and had itself been modernised in the 1950s. The city supported Hill’s fresh ideas and the club went from strength to strength. The success of the football club led to a ‘feel good factor’ in the city. This in turn led to increased productivity amongst the workforce. Significantly, the output of cars from Coventry peaked in 1968 with an output of 351,100 after the club’s promotion to the top division of English football."

5. Footballers as TV pundits

Jimmy Hill left pitch side and changed career in 1967, becoming a broadcaster and Head of Sport for ITV. He appeared as a football show presenter during this period and made an impact in his coverage of the 1970 World Cup where he introduced panels and pundits. The use of match pundits was quickly embraced and adopted across the world and now you’d rarely see football coverage without them.

Described as ‘the signing of the transfer season’, it was a big deal when Jimmy moved from ITV to BBC in 1973. Jimmy became the presenter of Match of the Day until he handed over the reins to Des Lynham.

6. Three points for a win

In an attempt to liven up football, the case was made to introduce a new points scoring system for the English Football League. Prior to 1981, teams received two points for a win and one for a draw. It was suggested that the introduction of three points for a win would mean more attacking play during games.

Jimmy Hill led the calls for the new three-point system to be introduced and was successful. It was introduced in 1981. At first it was only England who embraced it, but 13 years later it was used in the 1994 World Cup finals. FIFA adopted the system in 1995. It is now considered standard practice in international tournaments alongside most national football leagues.

Jimmy Hill also called for substitutes to be allowed and for more teams to be promoted and relegated so that the excitement would remain until the end of the season for more clubs.

7. Your point of view

What do you think Jimmy’s biggest achievement was? We've asked people from four areas what they think. Which statement do you agree with most?

Media

"I can't think of any other individual who had such a huge influence on sports broadcasting."

You selected

Richard Keys

Sports Presenter

"Jimmy Hill is unique. A giant, whose contributions to football and TV should never be forgotten. Thank you Jim."

Stadiums

"The all-seater stadium. When it was first introduced it was unpopular, it was against the grain, a very brave move."

You selected

Duncan Adams

Football Grounds Guide

"It was interesting to note that they did re-introduce some standing areas within a few months."

Players

"Jimmy was a very special person who could motivate a group of people to 'believe they could win'. This inner belief took every player to their maximum."

You selected

Bobby Gould

Former footballer and manager

"Thank you Jimmy for allowing me to be in that wonderful journey."

Fans

"The importance of the Sky Blue Revolution nationally is that it transformed attitudes of clubs towards their fans throughout the Football League."

You selected

Ian Nannestad

Soccer History Magazine

"The revolution will always be seen as a special time for supporters and an example to all followers of soccer of how a club’s fortunes can be transformed."