Fox Enhances its Coverage of the UEFA Champions League

The woeful performances by both Schalke and Wolves Tuesday night were so poor that Manchester United and Stoke City steamrolled past both teams respectively with relative ease. Schalke now faces an exit from the Champions League while Wolverhampton Wanderers have one foot in the grave with relegation beckoning unless they can create some miracles in the last few matches of the season. And even then it may not be enough.

Looking back at Tuesday, the most interesting aspect of the Schalke versus Manchester United match wasn’t the game itself but it was the production of the broadcast by Fox Soccer Channel for viewers in the United States. Hosted by Curt Menefee, he seems to be warming up to covering the Champions League and appearing more confident talking about soccer. He was joined by Eric Wynalda, Christopher Sullivan and Warren Barton, the trio that we’ve been used to seeing for most Champions League matches during the season.

The biggest difference Tuesday though was the set that the four on-air talent were sitting in. The new studio set was far more professional looking and had much more depth than the cramped Fox Soccer Channel one. Situated in the Fox Network Center in Los Angeles, the new set definitely improved the look-and-feel of the broadcast to produce a much more polished pre-match, half-time and post-match program. On top of that, the actual commentary in the game itself was far better than in the last round when we were subjected to Ray Wilkins’s embarrassing performance. This time we had Graeme Souness who was far more accomplished than Wilkins and fit in perfectly next to Martin Tyler.

Moving on to today, FX will be broadcasting the first Champions League match in their history. The network, which is available in 99 million US homes, will broadcast the game between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And then next week, FX will show the second leg between Manchester United and Schalke, while the second leg of Barcelona versus Real Madrid will air on Fox Soccer Channel. The final, just like last year, will be broadcast on FOX, the main TV network.

What were your impressions of the new studio set and the coverage and analysis that Menefee, Barton, Sullivan and Wynalda gave yesterday? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

32 thoughts on “Fox Enhances its Coverage of the UEFA Champions League”

  1. First off, I watched on DVR, so I had fast-forwarded through a part. I did notice a different voice in the studio. Now that you mention that it was Curt Menefee, I now absolutely recognize the voice.

    I will say this: one thing that soccer lacks in this country are familiar faces who “bridge the gap” between mainstream American sports and soccer. I like to compare soccer to golf, because they are both European sports with vast American appeal and typically are portrayed as boring by Ameriphiles (to coin a term). Who was the voice of the PGA as Tiger Woods (and thus the sport) began to gain vast popularity in this country? Jim Nantz, CBS’ lead play-by-play man for both the NFL as well as the NCAA basketball tournament.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion, Menefee hasn’t been as pervasive in the minds of NFL viewers (as host of Fox NFL Sunday) as his predecessor, James Brown. In any regard, it’s a start.

    I’d like to see FOX and ESPN both make this type of move to supplement their coverage of the Premier League. I know it wouldn’t be cheap, but I do believe that a culturally-accepted “liaison” to the American public would be a smart approach and add credibility to a sport that continues to get slagged by those who are scared of it (i.e. fans of so-called macho sports).

    1. ESPN did this with the World Cup with Bob Ley, Mike Tirico, and Chris Fowler. I definitely think it helped the appeal here in the US.

  2. I thought it was ray in the booth, but ray or graeme whoever it was, was very insightful. I liked his analysis of the fullbacks and the importance of carrick to protect his centerbacks.

    1. Menefee introduced the color man as Ray Wilkins at the beginning. During the first half, I thought, “Maybe his bosses had a sitdown with him, because he’s not nearly as annoying in this match.” Then after intermission, Menefee said “Graham Souness.” So I think they had the wrong info.

      Maybe Wilkins came down with a case of diarrhea…

      …(of the mouth)….

      1. Isn’t Ray Wilkins from London, and Graeme Souness from Scotland? I know you yanks are bad at distinguishing British accents, and think we all speak either like Prince Charles or like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but I would have thought any one could distinguish Wilkins and Souness!

  3. I thought Sounness was terrible. We should go back to the old days of one commentator. I’ve never listened to a “color commentator” who was any good—in any sport.

  4. I have to say I disagree Gaffer. I watched a bunch of the pre-game build up on FSC, but I just couldn’t take how awful it was. Warren Barton was pretty good, but you can take Eric Wynalda and throw him out the window. Every time he opens his mouth he sounds condescending and pompous. He consistently brings almost every statement back to himself (i.e. “I’ve played at this stadium”).

    The studio aesthetics WERE better, but overall I feel like whoever is running the program behind the scenes is doing a poor job. It just all felt so false.

  5. A few things:

    I wouldn’t refer to it as a “new studio.” It looked to be the same one fox uses for their NFL pregame every sunday. I guess it is new for people who don’t follow the NFL so in that respect I guess you have a point.

    I don’t like Menefee doing Champions League, and I would probably say that no matter how well he did ( don’t think he was good enough yesterday). I want people who have a good understanding of the game. You wouldn’t have Martian Tyler call an NFL game here in the US even though he is a great commentator.

    Basically I agree with the commentator above. It feels fake on many levels. ESPN is an example of how to do it right. Get people who know the game and if anything, don’t talk over the anthem and the players walking out onto the pitch. I still can’t believe FOX hasn’t figured that out yet. I don’t need Menefee telling me how intense the scene is, let me enjoy it.

  6. I had no idea who Menefee was prior to yesterday. I thought he did a pretty poor job and is out of his depth. I don’t understand why they can’t find a qualified soccer point man. As for the set, I am much more interested in the commentary than the ascetics. They could do it in Warren Barton’s garage for all I care, as long as they have solid and insightful commentary.

  7. I’ve always found the pre/half/post coverage to be decent enough on FOX Soccer Channel, but was often distracted by the public access look. Let’s hope yesterday’s journey to the LA studios becomes commonplace, because everything looked great – even if it was just the NFL studio.

    Graeme Souness was just OK, unless you’re into an overly calm commentator bordering on creepy. How many times did he utter the phrase, “Oh, that’s a cute ball.”

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA I KNEW I wasn’t the only person who heard that hahaahahahaha. So unnerving to hear him say that hahaha.

  8. Souness was abysmal. He kept repeating the same analysis over and over and his voice sounded like a whine, not to mention he kept talking over Tyler.

  9. I did notice that at one point Wynalda & Sullivan glanced at each other and snickered when Menefee seemed to want to say “field” but instead stuttered to say “pitch”. Does Menefee have ANY soccer/footie experience? Or is FOX simply attempting to attract with a familiar face? Either way, I think it’s a good move (at this time).

    1. I couldn’t care less about the studio show. I would love to see the British studio show at some point but I’ve given up hope of that ever happening.

      I was grateful to hear Martin Tyler announcing United last night. He’s tops in my book and it’s like playing FIFA as well at times. The color guy last night was off for sure.

  10. Well I think its great that FX is airing their first Champions league game and that the games are all being aired on high end stations. I think the feedback during the game was good, and the half time and end game reports were good too. A “new studio set” is a nice step in the right direction!

  11. Personally I could care less about the prematch show or who’s on it. The only thing that matters is that some US TV channel accessible to most households is showing the matches. I remember a time when we had nothing to watch in this country as far as European soccer was concerned.

  12. I whole heartedly agree with Jason who cares about the pre-match & post-game banter we should just be greatful that we have so many options to viewing european football these days. I for one am very happy that Fox owns the broadcasting rights to the Champions League as ESPN were completely disrespectful to the competition & football fans in general!!

  13. Agreed. I don’t care about the prematch or postmatch chatter. I just want to be able to see the game with good commentators. Even that is known a must for me as I can always turn the sound down if need be. What matters most is the game being televised live. The Home Network could televise it for all I care. As long as it’s shown live on any channel I’ll take it.

  14. About the only decent thing was the set. Menefee is a decent NFL anchor but is clueless for soccer. Its also taking the piss to wheel out a big time anchor for just the semis and final. It seems to confirm what everybody is thinking. That Wynalda, Sullivan and Barton are second rate. That is FSC’s real problem. No matter what they do, their coverage always feels cheap compared to ESPN. Sullivan and Barton are just not up to the job as pundits. And if you can’t trust a former top US international (Wynalda) to anchor the show, then what does that say? Take a leaf out of ESPN’s book and get a UK based commentary and analysis team. Tyler and Gray used to be the top pairing in the UK for many years. They would be great for FSC.

  15. Totally agree with Jason’s comments. I couldn’t care less about the pre game show, the half time show or the whatever show. I have my DVR and can cut out all this drivel. Putting some new guy in to head the “panel” who knows nothing about the sport is like two bald men fighting over a comb, it’s stupid. What can he add but memorised cliches. If I ever hear the term “powerhouse” used by some overly anxious presenter trying to enlighten us again, I’ll throw myself down the stairs. I enjoy hearing the Scottish guys in the booth. Their comments are always inciteful without going over the top. I especially liked Derek Rae’s (I think) comment on a player deciding to argue with Sir Alex Fergueson “there’s only going to be one winner there, I can assure you of that!”

    I do not know very much about baseball, but if I wanted to watch then let me listen to a guy who knows about and has actually played the game. Same for any sport.

  16. I’m a big soccer fan here in the US. I was looking forward to this match more than the Super Bowl. It was a little disappointing of a match. As for the coverage, Menefee I don’t like as a studio guy going soccer. He mentioned Real and Barca a few matches ago played to a tie, it’s a draw!

    I also don’t like the full panel of analysts. Just a bit overdone. The game coverage, I didn’t care for the 2 announcers, couldn’t really put my finger on it but just not my favorites. I am very happy though that Fox is pushing the sport more. Having the game on FX is a step in the right direction.

  17. I like the new studio set. Evidently the final four of any tournament warrants new anchors and a new stage set. I think the “new guy” did just fine. He pronounced all of the Real and Barca players correctly (which was my biggest gripe with a few of the anchors on FSR, they’re gone now).

    All in all I was satisfied. I do find that Barton seems to cut Wynalda off much more than he ever did when Wynalda was helming the role of host.

    Bigger audience and bringing a Fox brand that reaches many more footballheads and even the less devoted. Well done, Rupert!

  18. Overall I think the FOX production is pretty good and I think FoX is tryingits best to intergrate soccer into a high standard network tv. Its hard enough as it is that every other soccer fan wants to complain about every other little thing. As for this saturdays game, It is gonna be great to watch because it features two of the most commercially recognize teams yes I said teams so sue me (eurosnobs) outside of North America, in Barcelona And Man U, Yes I said Man U gotta problem with that eurosnobs? The Champs League final is on the big fox so I really don’t see what else anyone can say. I swear soccer only fans are the most spoiled. (One of the biggest problem in soccer in america in my opinion). So to the knuckle head who wants to whine about Meneffe saying tie instead of draw, hello genius he said Tie, tie and draw mean the same thing. Look some of y’all people need to recognize that Americans have our own culture especially when it comes to sports. No most of Us don’t say nil, we say zero or zip or nothing. And if the games ends at a tie, dammit its a tie. Ok I can get it when a brit person talk I would expect him to talk like a brit because that is how they was brought up! Curt menefee is American, so he is gonna speak from a american perspective.

    1. Also u have to realize its a FOX broadcast here in the US. So its important that Fox Sports has its people presented in a way was Fox presents soccer from europe to the American Audience en mass. Menefee provides a bridge between gaps of the standard american sports fan because he present Football, Baseball, and what other Major sport fox has contratced in their pregame as a host. So it makes sense to have him where he is so Fox is trying to do best it can to appeal to the American Audience, soccer isn’t that popular u know….

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