As A Question of Sport celebrates its 40th birthday, host Sue Barker tells What’s On TV what’s made the sports quiz show so successful and discusses plans for the anniversary show…

So what’s going to happen in the 40th anniversary show?
“We’ve booked four top sport superstars to play alongside the team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell. We’re also going to show some of the great names who’ve appeared over the past 40 years and some clips of the show’s best-ever moments, a lot of them making people look really foolish. I’m sure I’ll be one of them!”

You’ve been hosting the show 12 years, do you remember your first time in charge?
“I was actually thrown into it at the very last minute because the host David Coleman had caught a virus and lost his voice, so they asked me to do it the night before. I was quite nervous but as I’d been a guest on the show before I knew what to expect. John Parrot and Ally McCoist were captains then and, bless them, helped me through it! Then David Coleman decided to retire and he very kindly recommended me to follow him.”

What do you think is the secret of the show’s longevity and success?
“I just think people like an honest quiz. Everyone who comes on is naturally very competitive within their sport, so even if they were playing tiddlywinks in the green room after they’d all want to win. But it’s also good fun which is important. No one takes themselves seriously and everyone has a laugh.”

What would surprise viewers most about the show?
“The sports stars aren’t as on the button as they appear! They take far longer to answer questions than you ever see. Golfer Sam Torrance and rowing legend Steve Redgrave are the worst, always wracking their brains for ages. They just won’t give up to let me move on and would probably go on all night if we let them.”

Have you experienced any embarrassing moments?
“Well back in the Eighties I appeared as a mystery guest, and Willie Carson thought I was goalkeeper Ray Clemence while Emlyn Hughes said boxer Alan Minter. The clip even showed my hands which were quite dainty and hardly those of a boxer. Plus it showed my eyes with some make-up on them but they still guessed I was a man. I never lived it down for weeks after.”

The late Emlyn Hughes often put his foot in it didn’t he?
“Yes we’ll probably show that time he said a photo of Princess Anne on a horse was jockey John Reid. Then she appeared on the show a few weeks later and he couldn’t stop touching her! But classic moments like that are what have made the show such a terrific telly institution.”

*A Question Of Sport: 4oth Anniversary is on Friday 8th January, 7pm, BBC1

Interview by Nick Cannon