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ESPN Unveils Champions League Final Plans

champions league logo ESPN Unveils Champions League Final Plans

This Wednesday’s Champions League Final will be a mix of emotions both on and off the pitch. Reason being is that it’ll be ESPN’s last coverage of the Champions League before they hand the “keys” over to Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports for next season. After broadcasting the Champions League for 15 years, I for one will definitely miss ESPN’s coverage.

ESPN has plenty in store for soccer fans. Here’s the scoop:

  • ESPN’s team will feature commentator Derek Rae, analyst Tommy Smyth and reporter Dave Roberts. All three will be in Rome for the game,
  • TV coverage of the game begins at 2:25pm ET on ESPN, not ESPN2, on Wednesday, May 27, 2009
  • ESPN2 will broadcast a Champions League Final Preview Show on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 7:30pm ET on ESPN2. The show will feature presenter Adrian Healey discussing the final with pundits Janusz Michallik, Shaka Hislop and Robbie Mustoe as well as reports from Rome.
  • The match will be shown in high-definition on ESPN,
  • SportsCenter, leading into the match, will feature segments on the Champions League from Noon to 3pm ET
  • First Take (ESPN2, 10am-Noon ET) will feature Champions League Final-related segments including interviews with Tommy Smyth in Rome on Tuesday and Wednesday,
  • ESPN Classic will re-air the UEFA Champions League Final on Wednesday between 5:30-8pm ET,
  • The latest issue of ESPN: The Magazine features Lionel Messi on the cover with a cover story inside.

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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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18 Responses to ESPN Unveils Champions League Final Plans

  1. Tony says:

    Will it actually be in HD, or just the upscaled pillar-box SD?

  2. baxter says:

    On the one hand you don’t like to hear of anyone losing their job, but….I can’t help it – I’ll be happy if I never, ever, have to listen to Tommy Smyth’s pearls of wisdom again. Am I alone?

  3. BH says:

    Baxter – you are not alone. Funny how ESPN is going all out for this when they have no need to grow interest in the CL for next season (we think – until they buy out Setanta’s assets at bargain prices one might surmise, or steal the EPL rights from FSC).

    The problem with ESPN (and has always been the problem) is that the dudes on the First Takes or the Sportscenters or the PTI’s (and one would assume the magazine too) know nothing about the sport except the trivial. So they bring nothing to the table other than what their field reporters report. I suppose one could say almost the same for many other sports, but at least with SC there seems to be at least one or 2 subject matter experts around.

    Oh well, next season will tell if the grass is indeed greener.

  4. CFTV says:

    It’s a shame it only took ESPN so 12 or so years to finally get the Champions League Coverage right here in North America after holding onto the property for 15 years. The CL always seemed like a secondary property that ESPN was forced to show 1 day a week just so they could get the rights to the Latin America Broadcast Rights. ESPN finally seemed to get it by using Deportes to show the top Spanish sides, ESPN 2 to show Manchester United if at all possible and the other “Big 3 teams from England” when they had a big team against any team with a big name. They also started to use ESPN Classic by airing games on tape delay that weren’t shown on ESPN 2 from earlier along with multiple reruns of games on Deportes. I really think the game that made ESPN executives realize they had something special was Liverpool’s improbable comeback against Milan in the Final a few years ago and since then the coverage has been ramped up. Now poof after this Wednesday it’s over.

    I wouldn’t worry for Tommy and Derrick as they will still be able to call games from Bristol like they currently do for the markets Internationally that ESPN still has the rights to broadcast Champions League games as well as the work they do on the weekends providing English commentary for La Liga. Hopefully, they will continue to show ESPNSoccernet Press Pass on Classic next season. It’s just a shame that most people in North America won’t get to hear Derrick call games again unless Mickey Mouse pulls the Prem for ESPN 2 when negotiations are done for the International Rights following next season..

    I am glad that I get off at 1pm on Wednesday to watch the broadcast. 2 things I am hoping for is a music video package of a ton of great moments in Champions League games shown on ESPN from over the years heavy on goals, great saves, and amazing moments. Also I hope, when they sign off Derrick tells us we will see him and Tommy in June for the Confederations Cup and thank you for tuning into ESPN’s Coverage of the Champions League and the screen fades to black……………………..

  5. Pete says:

    All well and good, but will we finally get some post-match interviews with the manager and players, or still the droning on of the studio panel?

  6. olivert says:

    ESPN will retains the rights to the UEFA CL for the next 3 season in the South Pacific Ocean markets, especially Australia, but the rights will be shared with free-to-air broadcasters i.e. SBS in Australia. That means ESPN Int’l in Bristol, CT will only have to produce 1-2 matches per day/2-4 matches per round instead of 5 per day/10 per round.

    Tommy Smyth will be with ESPN through 2012.

    Don’t know about Derek.

    The freelancers will be the ones hurt, as there will be fewer matches to call.

    ESPN will lose the UEFA Champions League throughout the Americas except Brazil for the next 3 seasons.

    In Brazil, Globosat in Sao Paulo will take over from ESPN in Bristol the production of the UEFA Champions League matches for transmission on the two Brazilian channels: ESPN Latin America (Brazil feed) and ESPN Brasil.

  7. Chris says:

    I am happy that FSC now has the rights to the Champions League. I thought ESPN did a nice job, but I believe FSC will do better. Plus, FSC’s Vice President David Sternberg said they would have “TRUE HD” starting in February 2010 for the first knock out stages of the CL.

    Another reason I don’t care for ESPN, is due to the fact that when my buddy and I were in Mexico last year, we went to a pub to watch the second leg of Man United v Lyon (aggregate 1-1) we had gotten there on time but didn’t realize it was a delayed game and would not be on until the end of the Barca v Celtic game (on ESPN Classic I believe). So we drank for 2 hours until the the start of the United match. As I nonchalantly took a swig of my beer in the 5th minute, I happened to glance down at the bottom of the screen only to see the ESPN ticker that read “Man Utd 1-0 Lyon (Final).” Bollocks!

    Lets just hope that ESPN doesn’t have Tommy Smyth and the “See You Next Tuesday” Julie Foudy as commentators for the World Cup 2010. Sometimes I wonder if they are even watching the same game. The best commentators without a doubt are Adrian Healey, Andy Gray, and Derek Rae. Lets hope FSC can get these guys or someone of equal quality.

  8. TheFatPanda says:

    You know it’s bad when in order to watch a CL match on ESPN, you have to put something along the bottom of the entire screen to block the ticker from showing the scores of games that you later plan to watch on delay.

    ESPN doesn’t realize that 1) you can gain a lot by watching an entire game rather than seeing that Team A beat Team B 1-0 and that’s that and 2) how football fans in the US and elsewhere for that matter record and watch games on delay.

    I’m at a point where I just wait until Setanta shows their version of CL games on delay instead of rushing home to deal with ESPN when the game is live. And that’s sad.

  9. timmyg says:

    Here’s hoping that Rae and Healy (somehow) do the CL announcing over Bretos et al…

  10. The Gaffer says:

    Fox Soccer Channel will be using the international commentary feed for Champions League matches, which means no more Derek Rae or Adrian Healey (and there’s a very slim chance of Fox hiring them because they’re trying to keep costs down).

    The Gaffer

  11. Pete says:


    Does “international commentary feed” mean announcers or onsite announcers from Skysports/ITV? Notice the 2nd leg of the UEFA Cup 1/4 final this year at the City of Manchester Stadium used the ITV announcers Drury and Pleat, which wasnt half bad. They then promptly went back to Bretos, Miles, et al. the following rounds. Any reason why Fox couldnt use CL production from these sources (which would even perhaps result in us finally getting proper post-match coverage, vis a vis post-match interviews)?

  12. The Gaffer says:


    The commentators would be on-site. It’s very seldom that I’ve had a chance to listen to the international feed for commentary, but I believe we may be hearing a lot more Martin Tyler and company (or Peter Drury, David Pleat, and many others). If we do hear Bretos, Miles and co., it may be in the post-match discussion instead of the actual commentary itself. Fine by me!

    Not sure about post-match interviews, but I doubt it.

    The Gaffer

  13. Jerry says:

    Heaven forbid we would have to suffer through Max Bretos and his fake wannabe South American accent.

    Also, I would hope that FSC decides to start showing the matches on time (i.e. 2:45PM in the east) instead of coming on, having guys in a studio in LA talk gibberish for three minutes and show the matches on a three-minute delay like what they do for the EPL matches.

    I personally don’t want to see any of the FSC talking heads on any part of the CL broadcasts.

    I’m sad to see Derek and Tommy go by the wayside with the change in television rights but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the international feed of the broadcasts next year.

  14. Karo says:

    At least ESPN is showing the final in HD this year. Tony I’m sure it will be true HD because even the ESPN website has the HD ticker for the match they never used to have that before for a CL match on ESPNHD. Visca el Barca!!!

  15. David says:

    Personally I want Ray Hudson to comment all matches for the rest of eternity. Although he is quite biased in favor of Lionel Messi and Barcelona, he uses the most audacious adjectives ever.

  16. Dimitar Zlatevski says:

    Mi name is Dimitar, i live and work in Doha- Qatar

    How do i get ESPN here, i cant seem to find who can get us the service>?
    Please help?

  17. Karim says:

    Dimitar the champions league final broadcast, will be on the “ART Sports” network since they hold the rights for north africa and the middle east.. I dont believe ESPN in the middle east will broadcast it…

  18. mazaher says:

    when will the recorede match be shown please reply to
    asb soon as possible

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