All in the Game was a football skills competition broadcast on ITV between 1976-1977 that featured players from English and Scottish clubs competing in ‘It’s a Knock-Out’ style events. The show was devised by the then Bristol City manager, Alan Dicks, who was convinced that the theme could be used to help City financially in their push to the First Division. The four preliminary rounds, two semi-finals and final were shown by ITV in seven 30 minute programmes in July and August 1976. It was hoped that the format would catch on in Europe and become an international contest between the most skilful footballers in the world. The £4000 prize fund was split into £2000 for the winners, £1000 to the runners-up and beaten semi-finalists were awarded £500 each.
The first series of All in the Game was filmed on 17-18 July 1976 at Ashton Gate in Bristol. The 8 teams involved were Derby, Wolves, Leeds, Hearts, West Ham, Manchester United, Norwich and Bristol City. The souvenir programme, priced at 50p, made the bold claim that ‘apart from World Cup finals, I doubt if there has ever been a more valuable collection of players assembled in one place at one time to demonstrate their skills.’ The teams, each made up of seven players, included: Bremner, Frank and Eddie Gray, Hunter and Lorimer for Leeds; Coppell, Macari and McIlroy for Man Utd; Brooking and Lampard for West Ham; Jimmy Brown and Graham Shaw for Hearts; and Bailey and Hibbitt for Wolves. Derby’s squad is listed as Bruce Rioch, Henry Newton, Kevin Hector, Archie Gemmill, Charlie George, Jeff King, Colin Todd and Graham Moseley, managed by Dave Mackay and coached by Des Anderson. However, due to a fixture clash, a team of reserves was sent in their place; Graham Moseley, Donald O’Riordan, David Langan, Jeff King, Eric Carruthers, Alan Hinton and Collin Chamberlain.
The first series of All in the Game was broadcast on ITV from 21st July – 1st September 1976 on Friday evenings and was presented by Dickie Davies with Brian Moore commentating. Derby County beat Norwich City in the final to win the first series and the £2000 prize. There does not appear to be any footage available online. The competition format revolved around a variety of fitness and skills contests;
Star Striker: each team nominated a striker to shoot on the volley or half volley from the D of the penalty box against an opposition goalkeeper. The rest of the players supplied balls for the player to strike from any position. 5 points were awarded per goal and each team had to score as many goals as possible within 1 minute.
Three in the Ring: three players stood in a ring that was 10 yards in diameter. The ball was chipped 25 yards to one of the three players who had to make contact with the ball without allowing it to touch the ground. The ball then was passed to a goalkeeper outside the ring. 5 points were scored for each ball the goalkeeper placed in a basket within a minute, provided it had not touched the ground.
Relay Race: involved both teams playing the game simultaneously with no time limit. A server started in the centre of a circle who would chip a ball to the other six players 25 yards away without letting it touch the ground. If the ball touched the ground, it was taken back to the server and restarted. Any of the six players in the receiving area could control the ball, but only one could bring it back to the server in the circle without letting the ball touch the ground and not release it until he reached the circle. This was repeated until the last man, the goalkeeper, who caught the ball after it was chipped to him, then sprinted back to the circle. The winning team was the first to get all its players into the circle.
Over the Wall: teams dribbled as many balls as possible through markers then played the ball over the defending wall, which consisted of six opposition players (excluding goalkeeper), and into a 5 yard square marked on the pitch which was 20 yards from the last marker. The goalkeeper stood in the square and five points were scored per ball in the square after the time limit of 90 seconds. Any defending player stopping the ball using hand or arms were deducted 5 points per offence and any ball knocked out of the square during the game did not score.
Head the Goal: a ball was thrown in from the side of the goal area to a player that would run from a post 10 yards from the edge of the 6 yard box who would attempt to head the ball past the opposition goalkeeper. There was no restriction on the movement of the goalkeeper but the attacker could not cross a line drawn half way through the penalty area. Each goal scored 5 points and teams had one minute to complete the challenge.
Beat the Wall: five defending players were linked together on the goal line with no goalkeeper. The attacking side attempted to beat the wall and score as many goals as possible. One kick at a time was allowed with strikers shooting within the ‘D’. 10 points were scored per goal in a one minute time limit. If the wall broke up or used hands to block shots, 10 points were awarded to the attacking side.
Beat the Goalie: each team had 60 seconds to score as many goals as possible against an opposition team keeper. The ball was struck from behind a line drawn 20 yards in front of the goal, and each player had to run to, and touch, a marker post 5 yards behind this line before the next player could start his run. The goalkeeper could not come more than 3 yards off his line otherwise 5 points were awarded to the attacking team. 5 points were awarded per goal and the time limit was one minute per team.
Soccer Skittles: modelled on the English style skittle frame. Nine skittles were placed in a 10 yard square area, with the striking area 12 yards from the front pin. One of the team fed balls into the striking area and the manager or coach of the team nominated the number of strikers. Only one ball could be hit from the striking area at a time. Five points were awarded for each skittle knocked down and a time bonus of 1 point per second was allocated for each remaining second after all the pins were down (so if all nine skittles were knocked down in 30 seconds, a team scored 45 points for the nine skittles and 30 time bonus points for the remaining 30 seconds).
The Big Ball: the only new contest to be played in the final of All in the Game. Teams consisted of the full complement of seven players. Three players from each side were nominated as striker and the remaining four as servers to supply balls to the strikers. The strikers had to hit footballs at the ‘big ball’ in the opponents’ half. If the ball stopped in the starting zone no points were awarded. A board running the length of the special pitch was marked with a points scale, with a maximum of 20 points awarded on the position of the ‘big ball’ at the end of the 45 second time limit.
Two years prior to the first series of All in the Game, on 28 July 1974, a pilot programme was filmed involving Derby, Chelsea, Wolves and Bristol City. The competition was sponsored by ShellSPORT, largely involved in motorsport at the time. Wolves beat Bristol City in the final to win the £1000 first prize, as well as winning the League Cup that year. The event was watched by 7000 people and the whole show was televised on the World of Sport programme on a Saturday afternoon in August 1974. A 4 page programme priced 10 pence was produced.
A second, and final, series of All in the Game was broadcast from September – October 1977 which involved Bristol City, Ipswich Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leeds United, Leicester City, Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers and St Mirren.
Updated 21 April 2019 with the correct list of Rams players who played in the tournament. Many thanks to Collin Chamberlain for supplying the information.
This article was first printed in issue 17 of Derby County Memories in June 2017. See the About section for further details.