THE SUNDAY LEAGUE TEAM WHO HAVE BEEN
Inspired by a cine-film-making Uncle, the Hughes brothers were perhaps destined to record some of Edmonton Rovers matches for posterity providing the club could survive long enough while they saved up the money to purchase some sort of camera. Thankfully, the successful 1979-1980 season came to the rescue and it was during this campaign that the first-ever recorded footage of an Edmonton Rovers match was captured on cine-film (without sound).
The match in question was a fairly routine Edmonton Sunday League Division 8 fixture against St. Pauls Church at Montague Rec. in Edmonton on the 4th November 1979, but as Laurence Hughes was forced into acting as a stand-in goalkeeper in that match, it was Trevor Hughes who actually filmed the footage. However, none of it captured his brother letting in a silly goal from the half-way line (sailed over his head !) or dropping numerous crosses as all the footage consisted of was about a minute's worth of out-of-focus grass or sky !
Subsequent matches therefore saw Laurence Hughes have a go and he proved to be a bit more adept, although Trevor gradually improved as the season went on and some great action was captured, including Kieran McGregor's famous last-minute equaliser in the Weekly Herald Cup Final at a packed Barrass Stadium !
However, having to set up a projector to view these silent and often poor-quality cine-films was a real pain and the idea was abandoned at the start of the following season, especially with the 'B' Team starting up and the Hughes brothers having to play more often.
Although Rovers did have their Edmonton Sunday League Intermediate Cup Final defeat against Craig Park Centre in 1982 captured (rather poorly) on video by midfielder Terry Clark's uncle, it was really the advent of the first-ever camcorder in 1985 that re-kindled the Hughes brothers' enthusiasm as here was something far more convenient...small VHS-C tapes which you just put in an adaptor and played on one of those new-fangled VCR's which had just come on the market at the time !
As it was Trevor Hughes who actually paid for this camcorder (a shoulder-mounted JVC GRC-1 model which was later made famous by Marty McFly in the Back To The Future movie), he started doing most of the filming as Rovers tested the camcorder out for the first time in a Pre-Season Friendly against an Anglo-Italian team, FC Martini in Northwood, Middlesex on Sunday 18th August 1985. However, at least 5 others had a go that day, including Laurence Hughes, as the Camcorder was passed around as a gimmick and that was basically how it was used for the next four seasons with various club members taking it in turns to film bits & pieces of matches (but not every match), and basically just releasing the pause button whenever the ball got near the goal !
More often than not it was Laurence Hughes doing the filming though as he was the most competent cameraman, and after getting a few enquiries from opposing teams as to whether they could buy a copy of the footage, he decided to leave his job at W.H.Smith in February 1990 and start his own Company, Hughes Video Services, with the aim of specialising in filming Amateur & Semi-Professional Football Matches, which of course included filming every Edmonton Rovers match...properly !
That saw Hughes purchase a Sharp S-VHS-C Camcorder, which had a far better picture quality than Trevor Hughes's now antiquated JVC model and this was tested out in (unfortunately) a goal-less draw against Skidmore ('Skidmark') Athletic at Presdales in Ware on Sunday 11th February 1990. Having got in some practice then, Hughes used the following week's Home fixture (ironically against Skidmore again) as his first-ever professionally-filmed match, using a tripod, filming the whole game and editing the footage afterwards to include slow-motion replays and titles of all 12 goals scored (and more) and since then he has never looked back, going on to film hundreds of Rovers matches with an ever-improving quality and only missing a handful of matches throughout the last 30 years when he has had to play because of injuries or players not turning up.
Compilation videos of each Rovers season throughout the 1990’s (with a narration by Laurence Hughes) were then produced, along with 'Out-Takes' (strictly for Club Members only !) & Goal of the Season videos for viewing at the club's A.G.M.'s.
On producing the very first Compilation at the end of the 1990-1991 season, Laurence Hughes embarked on a media campaign which initially saw the club featured in several local newspaper articles before they got their first TV exposure in 1991 when Danny Baker hosted a programme ('The Game') on ITV featuring primarily the East London Sunday League, but also showing clips of humorous incidents captured on video at Sunday League matches all over the Country. Naturally, Hughes sent in several, but it was footage of a shot from Julien Nurse hitting the crossbar from 50 yards (at Home to Botany Bay) that really put Rovers on the map as far as National fame was concerned as it finished in second place in their Video Clip of the Series.
On the back of that, Hughes put some of the Compilation videos on sale in Sportspages in the Charing Cross Road, where a copy was bought by a Producer from BBC Radio 5's 'Sunday Brunch' programme. On hearing Hughes's 'comical' narration on the video, the Sunday Brunch programme therefore decided to have the club as a regular feature on their show which went out live and co-incided neatly with Rovers arrival at the Stag & Hounds Pub in Edmonton after their match in the morning. This saw presenter Mariella Frostrup phoning the Stag & Hounds every Sunday to get a match report from Laurence Hughes and interview some players, which on one occasion included a seriously-drunken 'Willie' Platt, who spoilt what was supposed to be a highbrow Arts programme with a Charlie Drake ‘Allo My Darlin’ impersonation in trying to chat up one of the most famous and glamorous media personalities in Britain !
'Sunday Brunch' continued featuring Rovers for a couple of seasons in the early-90's until the show was axed to make way for BBC Radio 5 Live, but even better publicity was to come Rovers way in September 1994 when Sky Sports 2's ' Sunday morning 'Soccer Extra' show started a 'Sunday League Soccer' feature in which a spoof commentary (by their own 'Steve & Jonty') was dubbed on to video footage sent in by Sunday League clubs. Fortunately, Laurence Hughes happened to be watching the programme at the time the request for footage was made, so he immediately sent them a copy of Rovers impressive 9-2 victory over Old Star Rangers and this ended up being the first match shown on the feature and subsequently being given a real plug with a full 10 minutes highlights being shown, together with live telephone interviews with Laurence Hughes and the Old Star Rangers Manager.
This was to start an amazing run of fame for the club, as for the next five years, Rovers match highlights were consistently shown on the programme every three or four weeks on average and with the show rapidly attaining cult status when it switched to Saturday mornings to become 'Soccer A.M.', Rovers effectively became the first Sunday League club to have their players recognised in the street by the general public, something which is now commonplace 25 years later with the advent of You Tube teams such as SE Dons and the like.
Unfortunately, Soccer A.M.’s 'Sunday League Soccer' feature finished in 1999 when Steve & Jonty moved onto other things, and with Laurence Hughes moving to digital filming and production from S-VHS in the early-2000’s, the next step for Rovers videos was therefore the Internet and having clips shown on the club website on a regular basis. This was in the form of a Goal Of The Season Top 10, a Goal Of The Decade (1990’s) Top 20 and a Video Clip Of The Week which was changed after every match. These were all saved as wmv files and they ran from the server that hosted the actual website. In 2003, Hughes started producing DVD's of matches, and these proved to be very popular with opposing teams buying copies and Rovers players themselves snapping up regular highlights compilations that were produced after every 4-5 matches played.
Once You Tube came along in the late-2000’s though, the club jumped on that bandwagon straight away to become the first real Sunday League ‘You Tube team’, with highlights of each match from the start of Season 2009-2010 being shown publicly with an ever-improving editing & production quality. Initially the highlights were of only 5-10 minutes duration due to You Tube restrictions, but now they are usually 30 minutes long and each match normally ends up with approximately 1,000 views. In September 2019 for a Home local derby against Edmonton Blades, professional commentary was added to the match highlights for the first time, courtesy of talkSPORT, BBC London & FA TV commentator Barry Swain. Barry has commentated on numerous Edmonton Rovers matches since then, but a regular sponsorship will be needed for the club to use his services for every match going forward.
The reason for the low viewing figures of Edmonton Rovers match highlights compared to other current Sunday League You Tube teams is that looped grime beats, touchline banter, ‘supporters’ deliberately running onto the pitch in front of the camera, and team talks & player interviews either before the kick-off or during & straight after matches are deliberately shunned in favour of filming, editing & producing the actual match to TV broadcast standards, much as Sky Sports do for their 30-minute highlights packages of each Premier League match. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, we prefer to use the filming of games for player performance analysis, thereby using a raised platform to film over spectators heads instead of filming the crowd getting in the way. Secondly, the matches are filmed properly to promote Laurence Hughes’s business as a professional freelance cameraman, and thirdly, the club got themselves into trouble with Leagues and County FA’s on a number of occasions back in the day from filming punch-ups and confrontations....and that was even before the advent of You Tube where such incidents could be posted freely to the general public. The club would rather not risk it’s future by publicising any ‘misconduct’ which could get players into trouble, especially with Laurence Hughes being a former member of the Barnet Sunday League Management Committee !
The next step for the club’s match filming history will probably be to live stream a game, although sponsorship will be needed to undertake that and any further ideas.
A number of the popular Sunday League You Tube teams that are operating today with huge viewing figures (compared to ourselves) are making a claim to be ‘THE FIRST’ to come up with the idea of filming their matches, but....
- We first filmed a match way back in 1979, way before any other Sunday League team thought of doing so.
- No other teams in any of the Leagues we played in started filming their matches until 2018 !
- We were being regularly interviewed on NATIONAL radio by a famous presenter way back in the 1990’s....well before the Sunday League Grime stars of today.
- We were being regularly featured on Sky Sports ‘Soccer A.M. for FIVE YEARS back in the late-1990’s....well before the current Sunday League You Tube teams.
- Our first match highlights were uploaded to You Tube in AUGUST 2008....some SEVEN YEARS before Palmers uploaded their first effort.
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