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How football has changed in the last 50 years


19th Oct 2020 Sport

Football is the most watched and played sport in the world. English teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea have a global appeal that has made them some of the most valuable brands in sport.


Football is the most watched and played sport in the world. English teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea have a global appeal that has made them some of the most valuable brands in sport.

While the Premier League is one of the most popular league competitions in the world, the Champions League claims the title as the most-watched annual sporting competition. Estimates say it attracts somewhere between 300 million and 800 million viewers each year.

That makes it significantly bigger than the NFL’s Super Bowl, which sees 100 million people tune in each year.

This is all a far cry from football just 50 years ago, here’s how the sport has changed in the last half a century.

Sports Betting

In the UK, betting on football has been a popular activity since the 1920s. At the time, betting on sports was mostly kept to horse and dog racing. During this time, a string of “football pools” were set up, where players could pick a number of games and predict the scores, those with the most correct picks won the top prize.

This trend was popular among mainstream consumers and not just football fans, and until the 20th century usually involves a person going door-to-door collecting entries and money.

Today, most people place wagers on football through bookmakers like Betsafe sports betting. These online sportsbooks offer convenience and more interactive experience than pools or traditional brick and mortar betting shops.

They also offer in-game betting, something that’s not really possible through shops.

The prevalence of sports betting in football now means almost every club has a sponsorship agreement with at least one iGaming company. 

Replica Shirts

If you’re old enough to remember when England won the World Cup back in 1966, you may recall that most football fans attended matches in a shirt and jacket, many even donned a tie.

Today, it is completely different. Go to any football game, at almost any level of the sport, and you’ll see almost every fan wearing the colours of their team. Most will even splash out for a replica shirt.

That trend started in the 1970s as sportswear brands began to sign exclusive contracts with teams to produce their kits and sell replicas. Though it took until the early 1980s for adults to begin regularly wearing them to matches, though they were still in the minority.

It became more popular through the 1990s after clubs began to spot the commercial opportunity to sell merchandise to fans.


For a long time, the only way to watch football was at the stadium. Though through the 1980s, more and more games were shown on TV. It was the birth of the Premier League that really changed this though, as Sky Sports agreed to pay significantly more than any other broadcaster to air games in the UK.

Since then, TV money has helped to fund huge investments in new talent, stadium upgrades, and other improvements to the sport. For example, the perfectly green grass is partly a result of wanting to make the game look better on television, and wasn’t commonplace back in 1970. Instead, patches of mud were very common on pitches.

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