It’s the crowning moment of the Premier League season. The part where the club who wins the Premier League title collects the trophy, and the captain raises it above his head to the joy of players, staff and fans worldwide. The players deserve it. It’s a shining moment in a long season no matter who wins it. And it’s something I always look forward to seeing every season. And this year, it’s a very special honor as Manchester United get to lift the trophy and to establish history as the most successful club in English football after winning 19 top flight titles.
Today’s Premier League title celebrations will be shown on ESPN2’s Manchester United against Blackpool broadcast. The trophy celebration will occur after the game ends.
In the United States, soccer coverage on television and the Internet has improved by leaps and bounds. But the one piece that often gets the cold shoulder by ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel and, when it was still in business, Setanta US has been the trophy celebrations. It’s one of the few moments in the season where you can let the pictures tell the story and there’s no need to say anything. Just sit back and watch the players prance around and take in their deserved applause. In previous years, Fox has not aired all of the trophy celebrations. When Setanta USA had it one year, when Manchester United lifted the trophy, they had some technical problems and we missed seeing the trophy lofted into the air. Even with the FA Cup Final last weekend, Fox did show the trophy being raised but then proceeded to talk over all of the other celebrations on the pitch as Christian Miles and Warren Barton jibber-jabbered about nothing in particular while the real story, the images of the players celebrating on the pitch, was teased in the background on a flat-screen television. Thankfully ESPN2 has decided to show the trophy celebration this year.
Soccer coverage in the U.S. is getting better. National anthems were played during the 2010 World Cup coverage instead of breaking for a commercial. Trophy celebrations are being shown, whether they’re on the Internet or elsewhere. But the TV networks still have a ways to go before they’ve mastered the coverage.
The parts that are missing are the before, during and after matches, i.e. the pre-match, half-time and post-match analysis. Fox and ESPN have tried to provide more of this, ESPN even more so. But it’s still not at the level that the league deserves. Post match analysis has been, for almost the entire history of English soccer shown in the United States, extinct. The game ends, cue the commercials and off we go. After the commercial ends, it’s time to move on to the next sporting event to show. And it’s over just like that. There’s no chance to wallow in the game, to discuss the high and low points, to question the manager’s decisions or to chide the striker for making a glaring miss. The post-match analysis is practically extinct in this country. Ian Darke and Steve McManaman are the exception, having broken new ground by having an after the match chat for ESPN2 viewers of the Premier League this season. And it’s a meaningful chat at that instead of the stuffy, cliche-ridden discourse between Miles and Barton afterwards. But the reality is that post-match analysis or coverage is a rarity, which is partly why trophy celebrations break the mold and have difficulty fitting in.
That’s one area of improvement I’d like to see Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN2 improve upon for next season’s Premier League: Improving its post match coverage and giving us a reason to hang on and watch the final few minutes. ESPN has worked really hard this season to raise the bar on Premier League coverage in the United States. Let’s hope next season is even better.
Thanks to reader Christopher Kull for the news tip regarding ESPN’s decision.