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ESPN Fail To Perfect Champions League TV Coverage

espn ESPN Fail To Perfect Champions League TV Coverage

With ESPN on Tuesday, I didn’t know whether to kiss them on the cheek or kick them in the balls.

The Disney owned network only had since December 19, when the knockout round draw was originally announced, to figure out which second leg matches would be shown on which ESPN channels. However, the mass confusion caused by the channel with last minute TV schedule changes was unacceptable.

ESPN’s saving grace was that they moved Liverpool against Real Madrid to ESPN, their flagship network. It’ll be intriguing to see what the TV ratings are for this match. If there was ever a time to attract new fans to the sport and get them hooked, this was it. It’s just a shame that the TV schedules weren’t firmed up several weeks ago. Otherwise there could have been a lot more promotion and word of mouth to increase the ratings.

On to the match itself, I was flabbergasted that Adrian Healey and Robbie Mustoe were chosen to be the commentating duo while Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth were relegated to the Juventus against Chelsea match. If I had to guess, the assignments were made a while ago before the TV schedule changes and the big match ESPN was going to be showing was scheduled to be Juventus against Chelsea. However, even after the last minute changes, I believe ESPN dropped the ball by not putting Rae and Smyth on the bigger match of the two, no matter how much planning and research the ESPN dream team had done.

Mustoe has to be criticized for doing a poor job as a co-commentator. Too passive. On the first two goals, there was little to no tactical analysis of whether the goal was offside and whether Torres pulled Pepe down (he didn’t, in my opinion). And even on the second goal, there was little to no analysis of whether it should have been a handball or not.

We need more of an opinionated co-commentator who is willing to call it as he sees it, instead of slipping into the background. If ever there were opportunities for a co-commentator to grab the game by its balls and for Mustoe to establish himself as a quality commentator, this was it. He failed.

Love him or hate him, Smyth would have forcefully shared his opinion on these first two goals.

In comparison, when Chelsea had a free kick near the end of the first half against Juventus and the ball appeared to go over the line, Tommy Smyth called it and said it looked like it may have been a goal. He also called the Juliano Belletti handball and didn’t sit on the fence on that one either.

And why oh why would ESPN again choose Mustoe for the Liverpool game when Mustoe is a self-confessed Liverpool supporter who admitted during the match that he has supported the club ever since he was a child?

Lastly, while this isn’t ESPN’s fault, why in a stadium of 42,550 do the TV cameras show the same five people in the shots of the crowd during the entire game? After a while, I was pretty sick of seeing that same woman in the front row.


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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