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BBC Sporting Theme Tunes

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The BBC sporting themes, played over the opening credits of each programme, have become legendary with some becoming closely associated with the relevant sport.

All of the themes have been released on various BBC compilation CDs, as well as by the original artist. The themes are also widely available as ringtones on mobile telephones. In a BBC Radio Five Live listener's poll, Test Match Special was voted the best sporting theme, winning 38% of the vote.

Sports and Entertainment Shows


Generally the most well-known, the Grandstand theme has signalled the start of the BBC's Saturday afternoon sports coverage since it was first broadcast on 11 October, 1958. The brass and drums fanfare, which plays over images of the sports being broadcast that particular day, is famous for the two opening timpani 'boings'. Keith Mansfield composed the piece for the BBC and the drummer was called Brian Bennett. Mansfield also composed a vast collection of library music used on other television programmes such as The Sweeney, as well as other BBC themes. The theme has been revised over the years, but remains essentially the same.


Sportsnight was a weekly sports show on the BBC between 1968 and 1997. Presenters included David Coleman, Frank Bough and Des Lynam. The theme for the show was called 'Sportsnight', and was composed by Tony Hatch. The piece opens with a morse code signature, giving the effect of speed. Hatch has composed many other TV themes including Crossroads, Emmerdale and Neighbours. Hatch also had huge success in the pop market, being particularly well known for his collaborations with Petula Clark. The pair's most famous song is the classic 'Downtown', released in 1964.


While not a sport in itself, Superstars was a popular programme in the 1970s and 1980s in which sportsmen from different fields competed in various events. The show returned to viewer's screens in 2003. The theme, 'Heavy Action', was composed by Johnny Pearson. Pearson is also responsible for ITV's News at Ten theme, as well as the music for the Captain Pugwash television series.

Pot Black

Pot Black was a weekly televised snooker tournament shown between 1969 and 1984. The programme's theme, 'Black And White Rag', was a ragtime piano piece written by Tin Pan Alley composer George Botsford, and performed by the classically-trained Winifred Atwell. The show and its theme returned for a one-off special in 2005.

Sports Programmes

Match of the Day

The theme to the BBC's flagship football programme, broadcasted since 22 August, 1964, is equally well-known. So well-known in fact, that it has become synonymous with football as a whole, rather than just the programme. The BBC commissioned Barry Stoller to write the theme, which was originally called 'Offside'. Words have been added to the theme by several people, including an Anglican minister called Reverend John Hartley to coincide with the 2002 World Cup. The theme plays over images relevant to the competition being covered, either highlights of The FA Premier League, The FA Cup or international matches. However, this was not the first theme used for Match of the Day. Until 1971 a march called 'Drum Majorette' was used. This piece was composed by Major Leslie Statham, who wrote under the name of Arnold Steck. Statham was the Director of Music of the Band of the Welsh Guards.


'Drag Racer', The guitar-based theme for BBC's snooker coverage was written and performed by the little-known Doug Wood Band in 1982. In 2002 the theme was given a 'big-beat' style remix, which was aired by Radio One's Chris Moyles.

Ski Sunday

Ski Sunday is introduced by another famous theme called 'Pop Looks Bach' by composer Sam Fonteyn. This tune has been used since the programme's first airing on 15 January, 1978.


'Chaseside Shoot-up', by Brian Bennet is the theme for golf coverage. Bennett has also produced music for other television dramas, films and radio programmes. He is perhaps better known as the drummer for The Shadows.


Released by soul group Booker T and The MGs in 1968, 'Soul Limbo' introduces BBC cricket coverage. The theme was used for television coverage until the BBC lost the rights in 1998, but it remains the theme tune for Test Match Special on Radio 4. With a distinctly Caribbean feel, the song features cowbells and steel drums. Since Channel 4 took over coverage1 in 1998 they have used a number of themes, the most recent and memorable being Lou Bega's 'Mambo Number 5', which was used during England's 2005 triumph over Australia in The Ashes.

Formula 1

The Formula 1 theme, which is called 'Motor Sport', was arranged by Roger Barsotti. The instantly recognisable bassline and guitar solo was taken from Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain', from their seminal 1977 album Rumours. While it was used for motor sport in general, it is most closely associated with Formula 1. Despite the BBC losing the rights to show the sport in 1997, the theme remains closely associated with Formula 1, the opening bassline and guitar solo capturing the excitement of racing perfectly. ITV replaced the theme with several of its own commissioned works, including one by UK musician and racing enthusiast, Jamiroquai's Jay Kay.


Another Keith Mansfield theme, 'Light and Tuneful' introduces coverage of the Wimbledon lawn tennis championship. The tune played over the closing title sequence is a military march called 'Sporting Occasion', composed by Arnold Steck.


The theme most commonly used for equestrian coverage is 'A Musical Joke', arranged by Waldo de los Rios. Rios adapted the piece from Mozart's Symphony No 40. Rios also adapted many other classical works, as well as scoring several Hollywood films.

London Marathon

Ron Goodwin wrote the theme for coverage of the London Marathon. Goodwin was a noted composer, having won three Ivor Novello awards. The theme is called 'The Trap', and was originally written for a 1966 film starring Oliver Reed. Goodwin scored major Hollywood films for nearly fifty years, including Where Eagles Dare and Battle of Britain, as well as composing music for popular artists.

Other Programmes

Other well-known BBC themes include Hubert Bath's march 'Out of the Blue' for the Sports Report, Charles Williams' 'The Challenge' for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and 'Be My Boogie Woogie Baby' by Mr Walkie-Talkie and composed by Renate Vaplus for Kickstart.

1Although they too are set to lose the rights to Sky Television from 2006.

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