Champions League Final Ratings Up 30%: Anglophiles Weep


Well look at what happens when the American football loving public isn’t subjected to an all English final with the team missing from last year full of petulant whining children like their former coach. Wednesday’s final provided ESPN 300,000 more US viewers and a 30% spike in ratings. Over 1.4 million households watched the Champions League Final in the United States, a number that beats many daytime Major League Baseball telecasts on the network.

For years now we have been told that for football to succeed among an English language audience in this country it must be of the English variety. We received more hype in this country about the Chelsea-Man United final than we had for any previous final since 1999 when it was thought by some that Manchester United’s heroic victory over Bayern Munich was a victory for the game in the United States. This came even though the only player that day who would ever suit up in MLS featured for Bayern not United.

We’ve been preached too about the quality, skill and presentation of the English game to detriment of all others including our own domestic leagues and national team. But on Wednesday the football fans who prefer to watch English language telecasts spoke with their viewership. No English Premier League match has ever had so many viewers in the United States.

While an emphasis on English football is important to growing the popularity of the game in this country, other European leagues provide more skill and arguably equal levels of entertainment. They should all be paired together as part of a pie, not presented as competitors or somehow lesser versions of the game. As I discussed on this week’s Mad About Football show, much of the Anglicization of the world football press is done more out of Hubris than any other factor. Much of the English language football press in the US buys the lines that come out of British papers and British football shows lock stock and barrel.

American viewers also demonstrated with the high popularity of the Euros which was missing England altogether (some commentators myself included believed the Euros would bomb on American TV without England’s qualification) that they get world football not just the anglicized version of the game.

Part of the tragedy of World Cup 2006 on American Television is that ABC and ESPN felt they had to spotlight the England team so frequently. The Three Lions not only bored American audiences to death allowing detractors of the beautiful game here at home to pen irresponsible, xenophobic columns, but ABC failed to highlight Argentina, France, Spain and the other sides playing open and exciting football until it was obvious England was not going to win the World Cup.

We were told Dave O’Brien made the World Cup unwatchable, but O’Brien’s biggest issue probably was being forced to call so many absolutely dire England matches. Had O’Brien been given the opportunity to cover Argentina or France at an earlier stage of the tournament perhaps he would not have received so much scorn from the American football press, much of it obsessed with England.

A parting thought on the Champions League on ESPN. Perhaps it was the European bias of Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth that has me thankful ESPN will no longer carry the Champions League. Both formerly commentated on MLS matches, but only Smyth could have been called truly objective. Rae’s history calling New England Revolution, Metrostars and ESPN MLS games showed he had a lack of tolerance for football not of the European standard, and was nothing but condescending to the American game. (It should be pointed out that Adrian Healey is one of the most pro American announcers around with MLS and USL/A-League PR experience himself and that he will be missed.) No doubt that Rae is a professional, but he was the wrong voice for an American audience.

Perhaps it was the ticker at the bottom updating us on the score of the Red Sox-Orioles game that was annoying. Or maybe it was just an aversion to a network that has treated football as an ugly stepchild in classic American fashion. Whatever the case I am very grateful the Champions League is headed to the News Corp family of networks next year where the event will be treated as the worldwide phenomena it truly is.

CORRECTION: I did forget about David Beckham. For a minute I thought the comments meant John Thorrington who was a reserve team player for United in the 98-99 season before moving to Bayer Leverkusen and being on a  reserve squad of another side that made a Champions League final.  I guess my point is Lothar Matthaeus had in 1999 already very openly expressed his desrie to play in New York. That made Bayern a natural to support in that final, knowing he was maybe months (as it turns out a year) away from joining MLS. But still we were force fed the diet of what was good for England was good for MLS. That’s the point. Sorry for the error.

13 thoughts on “Champions League Final Ratings Up 30%: Anglophiles Weep”

  1. I hope FSC steps up the budget next year. My highschool’s weekly school news show was of higher quality then some of the crap FSC has. Also no Christopher Sullivan with his stupid over pronunciations “FUTOBOOOL” and no Max Bretos screaming yeeeeeees.

  2. The CWC Final should be treated with equal or greater hype. South American teams have beaten Euro teams more often than not. Europe does not always have the world’s best football. They have to prove it in the CWC.

    It’s not fair to those great South American teams to immediately hail the Euro champ as the best in the world. Yes, Barca is an outstanding club. But the journey is not yet complete.

    Let’s recognise the greatness of South American football, and give the CWC its due. In 2009, South American football should not be treated like the Negro Leagues of baseball were in the 20th Century.

  3. I do think that having Barcelona in the final did help the audience. How much I am not certain of however. Thanks to good promotions by ESPN and for that matter FSC and other local media outlets the CL final has become an event on the American sports scene. It’s particularly well suited for us Yanks to watch during lunch or back at work on our desktops. America is becoming a soccer nation but not in the sense that American soccer is America’s favorite soccer. We all know here of the popularity of Mexican football on US TV for instance.

    Now much has been made of the preference of English football in America. The rapid rise in popularity of English football has been enhanced if not entirely due to technology. Cable or sat tv, the internet, and streaming audio right over your cell phone during your drive home has brought the English soccer mad media into our homes and cars. Kartik and Brian may correct me on this but there is no sports radio station in the US or Canada that does more than an occasional show. However, on my ride home from work thanks to modern technology I can get plenty of soccer talk live from England on Five Live or Sportstalk. So, the English speaking American has to turn to the English media for their soccer talk. I would love to turn in to a Chicago sports talk station doing MLS talk but we have no such option.

    Hence, part of the popularity of English soccer.

  4. Dave O’Brien had plenty of practice commentating games before the World Cup. Yes, the England matches weren’t exciting. But even if they were, O’Brien would have still been the inept commentator that made the World Cup TV coverage a laughing stock.

    There were plenty of other US TV commentators who weren’t given a chance who would have done a much better job than O’Brien.

    The Gaffer

  5. “Manchester United’s heroic victory over Bayern Munich was a victory for the game in the United States. This came even though the only player that day who would ever suit up in MLS featured for Bayern not United.”

    wait, what?

  6. This is without question your worst blog posting ever.

    You insult the very foundation of what makes so many of us watch this game. Look you may not get it Kartik, MLS DOES NOT ATTRACT FANS TO THE SPORT.

    Fans are attracted to football by being able to listen to commentary from BCC Five Live, watching Setanta’s football themed shows and reading football commentary in a common language.

    I’m sorry websites like this, Soccer by Ives Galarcep, Centreline Soccer etc do not bring new fans to the game- all you do is exploit the desire of some hard core and nativist fans to American coverage- your coverage in particualr is as xenophobic and jingoistic as you claim the English to be: all this US national team stuff down our throats and constant coverage of MLS, USL, PDL, whatever the heck else. In the big scheme of things none of this matters- none of it brings the game to new fans.

    The vast majority of fans in this country either are immigrants are discovered the game through the very British press you malign. British commentators understand and appreciate the world game far better than any American can- after all they invented the game and have a national team ranked in the top 10 in the world. British correspondents cover every league- ever listen to Tim Vickery- he’s British- what American covers South America? How about Sid Lowe? He’s British, but knows Spain better than any American. Even here in the US the best analysts are British.

    So what do you suggest? Putting Max Bretos in the both so he can scream YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS like a moronic American instead of the dignified sophisticated voice of Derek Rae? Pur Christopher Sullivan and his bizare pronunciations and love of MLS instaed of Tommy Smyth?

    The Spanish and Italian leagues don’t concern me. Those who have watched United all year know under normal circumstances they’d have beaten Barca. Darren Fletcher’s injury and the grind of having to actually compete for a title in the world’s top league, not be handed a title in a second tier league took its toll.

    In summary this is a hate filled blog post written by someone whose previous statements about us all having to watch MLS or USL and need to support the USMNT make him totally nonobjective and not worthy of a valid opinion. I’ll root for who I want to root for, watch what I want to watch and listen to who I want to listen to. People like you, Max Bretos and all the other pro MLS tools need to get over yourselves.

  7. This came even though the only player that day who would ever suit up in MLS featured for Bayern not United.

    Err, check the rosters again. Specifically, look at who wore shirt #7 for Manyoo.

  8. It would be even better if Press Pass discussed MLS.

    Why does FSC not have any original MLS or USL related shows during the summer but constantly shows Premier League re-runs.

    You are optimistic about FSC getting the rights? I think it’ll be more anglicized than ever.

    HJAORM, where do you live? I am sure you have a USL team near you since you don’t or maybe an MLS team Why don’t you truly embrace the game instead of pontificating about it to us?

    I’m tired of it being the English way or no way at all.

  9. HJAORM, you have written a a hate filled blog reply and totally nonobjective and not worthy of a valid opinion. Congratulations you have written what you abhor.

  10. This is probably your best ever blog post. Sorry H whatever, this is quality stuff that’s needed to be said for a long long time.

  11. HJOARM: You’re right about that annoying idiot, Max Bretos. He could ruin the most tactically, beautifully played football match. How he gets paid to be an annoying douchebag, is beyond me.

    Great to hear someone mention Tim Vickery. I love that guy. If you guys haven’t read his blog yet, check it out now. The man knows his football.

    And HJOARM, quit making excuses for Man U. They and SAF knew that the European title was the priority. As long as they clinched a top 4 spot in the Prem, nothing was stopping them from focusing 100% on the highest honour in all of Europe. They were the lesser team. End of discussion.

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