So for the entire 2009-10 season of the Champions League coverage on Fox Soccer Channel, soccer analysts Bobby McMahon and Warren Barton have worked incredibly hard to hone their skills, study the teams and deliver some of the best homegrown soccer analysis we’ve ever seen on television Stateside. So, what do they get for their hard work? They get replaced for the Champions League Final with LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and NFL analyst Curt Menefee.
It’s possible that Barton and McMahon will still be involved on the Fox Soccer Channel pre-game show before the game is broadcast live on the regular Fox channel across the United States. But still, I believe Fox’s decision to bring in Arena and Menefee stinks.
Arena is not a soccer pundit and he is not a great speaker. Menefee is a NFL talking head but, according to Fox’s official press release is “a long-time aficionado of international soccer.” That’s news to me. But still, I don’t think he could do half the job that a Barton or McMahon could do. Rounding out the cast of characters for the Champions League Final will be Eric Wynalda who will retain his role and will sit alongside Menefee and Arena.
I’m quite puzzled by Fox’s decision to favor Arena and Menefee. Who are they trying to appeal to? Are mainstream Americans who watch sports but never watch soccer going to suddenly watch the Champions League Final because Menefee is on television? And while Arena is a brilliant coach, are more soccer fans going to watch the game because Arena is now one of the analysts? Sure, Arena adds credibility but we don’t want big names in those chairs, we want experts.
Perhaps that’s precisely the reason that Barton and McMahon weren’t chosen… because Fox Corporate felt they had to pull in the big guns for the final. To me, this feels like what ESPN did for the 2006 World Cup when they brought Dave O’Brien in to pull in American viewers. While Menefee isn’t going to be commentating (thank god it’ll be Tyler and Gray), it’s still a poor move by Fox and a slap in the face to soccer fans throughout the United States who have appreciated Bobby McMahon and Warren Barton.
Or, maybe it’s Fox feeling as if they have to add American voices to their Champions League Final coverage instead of an Englishman and Scot? Especially when it’s Fox’s first-ever soccer broadcast.
If I had to make a guess, this decision feels like it was made by Fox Sports instead of Fox Soccer Channel. And what does Fox Sports know about soccer?
Whatever their reasoning, and we may never find out what they were really thinking, it’s a poor decision. America needs experts like McMahon and Barton, and it would have done a brilliant job on Fox that would have done a service to the sport in this country.
Fox, what were you thinking?!