Just as Great Britain and France had their own Domestic Series (It's A Knockout and Intervilles, respectively), West Germany had their own series called Spiel Ohne Grenzen which was made by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (more commonly referred to as WDR) and broadcast on their ARD channel (in common with Jeux Sans Frontières). Like its British and French counterparts, Spiel Ohne Grenzen was more than just a joust between towns, as the winning teams would qualify for Jeux Sans Frontières.

The series would undoubtedly look familiar to viewers of It's A Knockout and Jeux Sans Frontières, as its format was similar and games often involved outsized and humorous costumes. The first Domestic Spiel Ohne Grenzen was transmitted on Saturday 29th April 1967, leading in to the third year of their participation in Jeux Sans Frontières. West German teams met with considerable successful in the early JSF competitions, and this can no doubt be attributed to the opportunities for competitive practice that their Domestic Series afforded.

Bizarrely, there is now more interest for Spiel Ohne Grenzen outside of Germany, from places as far afield as Argentina and Latin America, India, the Middle East, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, where the programmes have been repackaged by Transtel Cologne under the title Telematch and are still occasionally repeated. Apparently, the showings in India still rate well in audience terms. These overseas showings were all the result of Transtel's canny decision to dub the shows into Arabic, English, French, Hindi and Spanish.

Telematch GameThe format of the show changed for the last three years that Spiel Ohne Grenzen was in production. Previously a weekly competition where teams from two West German towns would compete against each other for the honour of representing their country in Jeux Sans Frontières, from 1978-1980, there were only two events staged annually, with each featuring five teams. The top three teams in each of these competitions would go through to the JSF events, along with the highest scoring fourth-placed team in the two heats.

Sadly, the 1980 series of Spiel Ohne Grenzen would prove to be the last, WDR pulling the plug on German participation in Jeux Sans Frontières. Without the European competition to feed, there was little reason for Spiel Ohne Grenzen to continue. Transtel retain the forty-three programmes made between 1973 and 1980 in their archives and still offer them for sale in their catalogue (as Telematch).

by Alan Hayes
with grateful thanks to
Nicolás E. Korzan
and Neil Storer