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Spursline: Gone but not forgotten

Posted on 15 July 2003  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Spursline was a revolutionary service for Spurs fans when it was launched in 1986.

Pioneered and produced by then commercial manager Mike Rollo, now our director of corporate hospitality, the innovation - to bring Spurs news direct from the club to Spurs fans - attracted 20,000 calls a week in its heyday.

However, new technology has taken over and Spursline broadcast for the last time on Monday.

We're again at the head of that technology with another pioneering service called Spurs (((On!))) - this time with news direct to your mobile phone.

But we couldn't let Spursline go without taking a fond look back at its history and greatest moments.

And who better than Mike to do so...

He recalled: "I was aware of the introduction of premium rate phonelines and the arrival of Clubcall. I had a journalistic and broadcasting background so I thought if the deal was right, we could do it ourselves. We acquired a number - 0898 100 500 - and we launched on Monday December 1, 1986. I always remember that date. The first person to be interviewed was David Pleat, the manager at the time and we went onto the 1987 FA Cup Final. In fact, it was a great first season to launch and we were soon attracting 20,000 calls a week.

"The following season BBC TV's Match of the Day was off the air and John Motson was available to come to matches, so to keep his hand in he was quite happy to do match commentaries and various interviews.

"That was 1988 and he continued until 1990 when the World Cup came along. That really cemented Spursline as the number one source of news for Spurs fans and, in fact, we found that Fleet Street as it was were actually calling us for news. You have to remember that When we first started, there was no all-sport radio station, Capital Gold had just launched, there was no Five Live, so this was the place for Spurs fans to find out what was really happening.

"In 1990, John had to leave and we managed to get Kenneth Wolthensthome. I heard, just by chance, that he was without a job. He was another BBC institution and did our commentaries for another five seasons. Pete Abbott, who was in the chair until the end, took over in the mid-1990s.

"There were always a few funnies. I remember once on April Fool's Day we had David Pleat announcing that we'd signed Diego Maradona and Michel Platini and they were fighting over who would play right-back. People actually believed it! Another time we had a programme when April Fool's Day fell on a Sunday and I was up in an aeroplane with all those sounds behind me interviewing players in this imaginary plane. We asked callers to look at the plane's fusilage, make a note of the number and ring in for a prize. Believe or not, people rang in with the number!

"The highest number of calls we ever had would have to be when Paul Gascoigne signed. He was so excited to be joining he actually talked for about an hour!

There were only a certain amount of minutes we could broadcast at a time so we ran this interview over a three-day period and we were getting something like 40,000 calls a day. That was it's heyday. It was similar when we signed Gary Lineker - that signing was actually announced on Spursline. Good or bad, it was reported on Spursline and fans knew to go there first.

"I'll be sad to see it go. It was a labour of love for me and I saw it at the time as pioneering. It was a lot of fun but most importantly, it was a major way for the club to communicate to the supporters. It will be missed but I'm sure Spurs (((On!))) will take over it's mantle as the way for fans to get news direct to their phones."