(Can a simple name change effect results?)
Last Friday, August 21st, 2009 was in my opinion a small step back for football in this country. The controversial day marked the end of World Soccer Daily, the only daily football talk show in America. The sense of community that I & so many other American European football fans found at WSD will truly be missed. Cohen decided to walk away after he admitted to being “a wee-bit frightened” by some of the “threats” he & his family received. The outpouring of sympathy from WSD loyalists could soon be heard from Kentucky, U.S.A., all the way to Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Many of you are probably aware of the “debatable” comments that host Steven Cohen made in April concerning the disaster at Hillsborough some 20 years ago. (For full story, visit The Gaffer: http://www.fit.am/107)
What ensued after the comments was a full fledged boycott led by the Liverpool FC New York Supporters Club. A successful one at that. Some of the sponsors that pulled funds were Heineken, Ruffneck Scarves, FourFourTwo & Fado Pubs. Chances are Cohen may have gone slightly too far with his opining, ( his dislike for all things Liverpool was well known) but at the end of the day he was simply practicing his right of free speech on the show he built from scratch with Poker enthusiast & Liverpool supporter Nick Geber. Like him or not, since 2002, Cohen & Co. have been more than instrumental in bringing football to the masses on the daily Sirius show & via a heavily downloaded iTunes podcast. WSD’s core audience in the early days were mostly the hardcore underground football fan & the random expat. However, in the last year or so, the show has continued to grow by leaps & bounds with the increasing popularity of the beautiful game Stateside. Cohen was the voice of soccer in this country, many looked up to him & co-host Kenny Hassan because they had no where else to turn. Only in the last few years has it become easier to support a major European club in this country. Goodbye to the days of expensive PPV & lackluster coverage, hello Fox Soccer Channel & Setanta.
Last Friday, August 29th, 2009, with only one week off the air, Cohen & Hassan returned with a 15 minute promo under the new moniker World Football Daily. During the brief introduction of the new show, the lads promised to bring to the masses a changed direction resulting in a “revolutionary” way of presenting football conversation in this country. An “Interconnected world town hall meeting every day”, was promised by Cohen, who hopes listeners will utilize the online software application Skype-which allows users to make voice calls over the internet. The audience-driven model will now be a monthly subscription based show & mostly rely on the internet crowd, pod-casters, U-streamers & massive/already established core audience to make the show successful. The show even hopes to fly out a fan to co-host once every few months. Cohen admitted to being hounded by Hassan in the hours & days immeaditely after WSD’s demise to re-start a fan-driven football talk show. Cohen also stated in the 15 minute sneak peak on Friday that his family was instrumental in his decision to re-brand & continue on. Heart-broken fans didn’t have to wait long. The show returns Monday, August 31st with what will be it’s last free show. The very next day the show returns with it’s first attempt at the new subscription based model.
What’s your initial reaction to the re-branded show starting on Monday? Does Cohen owe more penance to the Liverpool FC Supporters Club of NY, or more specifically, the families of the 96? Will a subscription based model work in an age of digital downloading & file sharing? How important has Cohen’s voice been over the last seven years?
I believe Cohen has a responsibility to continue with a show in this country. Again, love him or hate him, he’s been an important figure in this country & can continue to provide credible guests that can offer insight into the game we love like no other outlet. Experienced professionals like Tim Vickery, Robbie Earl, Andy Brassel, Misha Sher, Phil Ball & Sean Wheelock are just a few of the experts that have delivered incredible insight in the past. (Readers must not forget the great EPL Talk Podcast as well. There are other great shows in this country in addition to WSD.)
With ESPN’s long-reaching hand now in the world football cookie jar, the popularity of our sport in the states to the mainstream American sports audience is officially on the precipice of explosion. With ESPN providing HD broadcasts, Premier League & La Liga rights, & World Cup 2010 right around the corner, us football fans stateside are in for an exciting next few years. Here’s hoping football gets the credibility it deserves as a sport in the country. We’ll take all the help we can get.