SOMETIME in the early 1990s I wandered into a pub.

I cannot remember precisely when, after all I was drinking at the time. But it was a Saturday night, just about the time when the afternoon punters leave, licking their upper lips to remove excess alcohol and then licking their wounds inflicted by a tilt at the bookies across the road.

The sophisticated night-lifers of St Ninian's, the haut monde of Cultenhove, had not yet appeared, so I had time to scan the bar for people to avoid. Unusually, my eyes alighted on the telly.

"What's on?" I inquired of the bartender. "It's a football match," he replied with that generosity of spirit typical of the breed.

"I am aware of the concept," I replied evenly. I had placed a beer mat under my shorter leg. "But pray tell me more."

Showing the verbosity of an Al Quaeda operative at an interview at Guantanamo Bay, he briefly apprised me of the details. I could not have been more surprised if I had been an Amazon dweller and he was explaining the workings of Twitter. In short, he told me this was Barcelona v Real Madrid, live from the Camp Nou. This was akin to introducing the neurotic to tranquillisers.

"I must have this," I said in the manner of a Russian oligarch viewing a Premier League club. I had lost my heart to satellite TV, then just a newborn full of hope and, it must be said, full of the stuff for which nappies are made.

The next morning I lectured the missus on the wonderful, educational world of multi-channel television and how it would take our children to the very gates of Oxbridge. Within days, a Sky satellite dish the size of Skye was attached to our house, which seemed to list under its weight.

This scene, of course, was repeated all over Britain. Those of us who could only dream of watching live football on the telly as kids now had a service that supplied it continuously, loudly and garishly. It was magic.

Two decades on, the brilliance of the innovation may have dimmed but television and its money exerts a grip on the world of football.

The wonderful Sit Down and Cheer, Martin Kelner's history of sport and TV, reminds the viewer that Barca v Real was not always at the end of a remote control, that there were goals and games that were not captured forever by cameras.

Television has not just captured the history of football but has changed it. It has become the paymaster and the gamemaster. It decides when and where matches will be played and has also decreed lesser leagues will remain that way.

The Premier League in England can now routinely bank £1bn a year for television rights. In contrast, in Scotland there was general alarm when the Sky deal was perceived to be in doubt after the Rangers meltdown. The precise details of the Sky deal for Caledonia cannot be revealed but it is thought to include three mirrors, a set of beads and a slightly used horse blanket.

Another smashing book, I Am The Secret Footballer, quotes an agent as saying all Premier League clubs could survive financially if gate money amounted to precisely zero. The bottom club in that league will pick up £60m from television fees this season.

It is yet another reminder that it is the fan with the subscription rather than the supporter with the season ticket who is the object of football's desire.

It also shouts loudly that football and television are now locked in a marriage where the game takes all the blows over falling attendances, daft kick-off times and fan disenchantment, while consoling itself with the money.

This can be accepted when the abusive, callous Mr Telly wades through the door on payday with billions. It is more difficult to rationalise when the league is in Scotland and the price of a loveless relationship is a diet of peanuts.

But divorce is impossible. The telly is on and no-one is switching it off. Football is now increasingly a home entertainment. That is bad news for the ailing game. And for the dying pub. Cheers.

Sit Down and Cheer by Martin Kelner is published by Wisden Sports Writing at £18.99. I Am The Secret Footballer is published by Guardian Books at £12.99