What is the Match of the Day TV theme tune, and who composed it?

14 March 2023, 09:40

The show is the longest-running football television programme in the world
The show is the longest-running football television programme in the world. Picture: Getty
Classic FM

By Classic FM

The history behind the brassy tune that scores ‘Match of the Day’ – one of British television’s most recognisable TV themes.

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In June 1964, late night sports recap show Match of the Day landed on our screens for the first time, presenting UK television audiences with highlights from the day’s Wimbledon tennis matches.

Just one month after this premiere show however, the focus of the programme had turned its attention instead to the nation’s favourite sport, football.

Almost sixty years on, it continues to bring match highlights to large audiences across Premier League season.

Asides from its commentary and analysis, the programme – which is the longest-running football television programme in the world – is perhaps most famous for its musical theme; a raucous, cheer inducing brass band fanfare titled Match of the Day.

In May 2010, British copyright collective PRS for music, revealed that the Match of the Day tune was the most recognisable TV theme in the UK.

Read more: The 25 greatest TV themes of all time

How old is the Match of the Day theme, and who wrote it?

The Match of the Day tune was written by 29-year-old composer (and shockingly, non-football fan) Barry Stoller in 1970 as the programme wanted a theme suitable for the new decade.

Stoller’s was chosen out of half-a-dozen submissions to be the show’s new theme, and show runners at the time had simply briefed entrants to compose, ‘something good’. Judge for yourself how you think he did below...

Read more: ‘In Italy, opera is like the football’ – Bill Bailey on classical music and the arts

Match of the Day Theme (The Original Complete Release)

How was the Match of the Day theme composed?

Stoller’s theme was a fanfare-esque melody complete with offbeat percussion, driving a brass-fuelled fantasy over two minutes long.

Alongside perhaps the more easily identifiable instruments such as the trumpet and lead, rhythm and bass guitars, the work’s instrumentation also includes a banjo and a clavioline electric keyboard.

Stoller used a multitrack recorder and enlisted the help of two of his friends to record the iconic theme in his East London basement.

“I put together a home recording studio in the basement of my family home,” Stoller told the Daily Mail in 2014. “[It was] probably one of the very first.

“The majority of recordings [for the first draft of the theme] were guitar and bass, but I wanted orchestral sounds.

“There were no samplers or synthesisers in those days but there was the clavioline, a little keyboard that could make the sound of trumpets, flutes, strings. So I started to build up the sound of an orchestra.”

Read more: What is the Champions League music – and what are the lyrics to the famous football anthem?

'Match Of The Day' Theme Tune In Bizarre Styles

“In general I’m not really a sports-minded person,” Stoller told the Mail on how he created the theme. “But I thought about the crowds, all the thousands and millions of people that go to matches.

“There’s excitement, there’s joy, there’s a euphoria in the air. It’s electrifying and I thought if I can catch that energy, that magic of the people, and get it into the music then that would be it. That’s what I wanted to do and somehow it got in there.”

After beating out his competition, Stoller’s theme was taken to be recorded by a professional symphony orchestra. However, the young composer felt like the magic had been lost when the piece was played by a room full of professional musicians.

“The amazing thing about it was when you heard it perfectly played, it didn’t have the same magic as the original,” he continued. “You wouldn’t believe it but these things happen.”

So the theme which is heard to this day is, at least according to Stoller, the home-recorded demo, played in the composer’s basement by three musicians.

Read more: How did ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ become Liverpool Football Club’s anthem?

What was the previous Match of the Day theme?

Stoller’s fanfare premiered on 15 August 1970 replacing the previous TV theme which the show felt was too old-fashioned for the programme, six years into its run.

The show’s original tune was ‘Drum Majorette’, a piece of military music written by by Major Leslie Statham, a former band member of the Welsh Guards.

Major Statham wrote under the name of Arnold Steck and retired from the armed forces in 1962 to focus on his music career, two years prior to the first episode of Match of the Day.

Drum Majorette - Match of the Day Original

For more of the best TV and Film themes, tune into Saturday Night at the Movies with new host, Jonathan Ross every Saturday at 7pm.