SAT, 7AM ET
WED
NOT
SAT, 7:45AM ET
BUR
MUFC
SAT, 9:45AM ET
FUL
CAR
SAT, 10AM ET
MCFC
STO
SAT, 10AM ET
NEW
CRY
SAT, 10AM ET
QPR
SUN

How a NFL Lockout Could Give EPL Soccer A Boost In the USA

5688985120 9ebb6f21b71 How a NFL Lockout Could Give EPL Soccer A Boost In the USA

Photo by SirRobHaley

We here in the States are occasionally subjected to one pundit or another proclaiming “This is the year soccer’s popularity explodes in America” or “This is the year soccer in the U.S. finally makes it!” Putting aside the problem of defining “making it” these types of stories generally surround a major event (World Cup, Champions League Final, etc.). I’ve never taken these stories seriously and have generally just gone about enjoying the matches. However, recently I started thinking that the 2011-12 Premier League season may indeed be a year for increased popularity in the sport in America. The reason has nothing do with any major soccer event but rather two factors unrelated to soccer whatsoever – default and laziness.

I happen to think the sport’s popularity in America will rise this autumn for one simple reason – there might not be much else to watch.

I firmly believe the current owners’ lockout of the players in the National Football League will extend into the summer and I feel that at least a delay of the start of the American Football season in September is plausible. If and when an NFL season does finally commence, the quality of play is likely to suffer due to a lack of preseason training camp and inconsistent offseason preparation by locked out players. American football players need a couple of summer months of beating each others’ brains out in order to adequately prepare for a new season. Therefore, even if games are eventually played, I think this will be a “lost” season in the NFL. Furthermore, fan backlash towards the sport, once it does ultimately return (in some diluted form), will at least keep some people away.

What is a sports-loving, beer-loving, HDTV-loving culture supposed to do when its most popular sport disappears? Rake the leaves? Read a book? Talk to the wife? I doubt it.

Incidentally, sports fans won’t be able to turn a basketball game on either. It is even more likely that there will be a prolonged work stoppage in the NBA this fall than in the NFL, jeopardizing at least the start of the basketball season. The baseball season will also be finished for all but a handful of teams competing in the playoffs.

So, this dearth of sports viewing options presents at least the possibility that some extra people tune in on a Sunday morning in September to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps that match they tune into will be a 4-3 barn burner, complete with top quality skill, wild emotional swings and perhaps a fan riot thrown in for good measure. Who knows, this might be just the spark America needs.

This possibility has always been a bit of a dilemma for me. While I would love to see soccer’s popularity increase, I also secretly take great pleasure in being in on a glorious little secret with a very small percentage of my countrymen. Either way, I do think the factors might be in place for some more American eyeballs to at least give soccer a chance this fall. That alone makes me excited to think about the possibilities.

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41 Responses to How a NFL Lockout Could Give EPL Soccer A Boost In the USA

  1. Ryan says:

    How about advertisers pumping more money into Futbol without Football? That could be a plus, too!

  2. Brian says:

    While a lockout would help the EPL in America, I don’t think it is going to be that large of a bump. EPL games are mainly fighting with college football on Saturday’s because the NFL plays most games on Sunday’s. A lockout would only make it easier to watch the late kickoff on Sunday’s. Now if college football was to stop playing for some reason then yes I think the EPL could see a jump in ratings from the US.

  3. MUFC77 says:

    Not while the majority EPl games are broadcast on FSC and FSC+.

    If ESPN had the rights to more games i could see them attract more viewers simply because they have nothing else to show on a Sat morning at 7:45am.

    • Eric says:

      This is a great point. With Fox Soccer being part of extra sport packages on many cable systems, it is harder for someone just “flipping channels” to come across a match. Exposure on ESPN would be a much bigger opportunity to attracting more interest.

      • MUFC77 says:

        I was shocked when FSC won the rights to the Champions league and the majority of EPL games, I can only hope ESPN put together a better deal when the broadcast rights open up for bidding again.

        With all the different ESPN channels they can still show Sat/Sun games and not take anything away from College football.

        • Brandon says:

          No they can’t. You don’t realize how much CFB is on the ESPN networks in the fall. That is why they wanted that 7 am slot. Starting at noon ET they have CFB on literally every platform except for ESPN news and classic. Sunday has a ton of NFL pre game coverage during that time as well.

  4. Titus Pullo says:

    It’s a good point. If there is no football Fox and ESPN will be looking for content and they very well may turn to EPL games to fill airspace.

    • soonerscotty says:

      If memory serves…doesn’t ESPN only carry the Monday night game? They don’t have anything to fill except on Monday night…and they always have poker (sigh, smh).

      • Brandon says:

        It’s more of a there is nothing else to watch on Sunday type thing the author is getting at.

        • soonerscotty says:

          Well, yes that makes sense…except the actual timing of EPL games which I touch on below. Now here’s a thought…what about La Liga games on Sunday, don’t they normally start much later??

  5. soonerscotty says:

    I don’t think this is likely. I love footy and even I find it hard to get up on a Saturday morning to watch it…the early Saturday game starts at 7:30et and 5:30AM where I am (New Mexico). I don’t see the vast majority of Americans tuning in out of curiosity at those hours of the morning.

    Even the later games on Saturday are over by noon et and by then people are getting geared up for college ball which usually kicks off at 11am on the east coast.

    And the Sunday matches are a non-starter. They begin too early also. People are still in church or just waking up…even for the later kickoff times.

    Now, let’s suppose Fox were to replay the games on Sunday on their dominant channels (Fox, FX, Fox Sports regionals) during what would be normal NFL hours, then maybe there’s a possibility. But, that would depend on if most Americans would be willing to watch them as replays. Soccer coverage being what it is here in the States, most casual or semi-curious folks wouldn’t know the outcomes beforehand. It could be done well on Sunday, but not Saturday.

  6. Patrick says:

    No NFL this weekend. Guess I’ll just have to settle for Blackburn v Fulham at 6:45 AM instead? I can’t imagine that happening too often.

  7. Nelson says:

    Even if the NFL and NBA stopped completely for a whole season ( which it won’t) I can’t see Americans turning to the EPL first. MLS is more likely with the regional appeal. These new watchers will be few and of course they will have no knowledge of the quality in the EPL.

  8. JC says:

    If they were serious, Fox would have EPL matches in the network slots where the NFL would normally be. Even if they are delayed. Anyone could stumble onto them and the casual watcher wouldn’t even know it was delayed.

    • Steven Tishco says:

      JC, this is the scenario I envisioned. The casual fan wouldn’t even be aware of a delay and wouldn’t know the result. The thought had more to do with these casual fans than with die-hards like ChelseaMPLS (below), who are already tuning in. The idea was if some NFL fans stumbled upon a few glorious EPL moments, perhaps there would be a snowball effect.

      • JC says:

        IMHO, the real growth of soccer in this country is due to the growing number of youth soccer players and the parents who get involved in coaching. I’ve been involved for over 10 years and I have countless stories of parents who have become EPL fans. It even drives them to play “old man” soccer every week. I couldn’t have cared less about soccer until I learned the game. Now, I don’t miss one United match, whether it be on Fox Soccer, ESPN or streaming and I’m out hacking on the pitch with the rest on Sunday nights. ;-)

  9. ChelseaMPLS says:

    The author of this article makes a great attempt to correlate NBA Lockouts and NFL Lockouts to increaing viewship in EPL, but I don’t see how this works?

    Majority of EPL games are on Saturday, and the NFL is on Sundays. Also the EPL games on Sunday are done by the NFL kickoff. As someone mentioned previously, I’m big Chelsea fan it is hard enough for me to get off for 8am kickoff on Sunday, why would a non-fan do this?

    Also the games are on Fox Soccer Channel, not many non-soccer fans would have this channel.

  10. jbm says:

    If a lockout does happen (which I really doubt) I really don’t see the Premier League gaining much beyond some additional SportsCenter coverage and maybe some delayed games on Sunday and Monday. NFL crowd looks down on football after years of “that lame European sport”. My guess is that the two biggest gainers if there were an NFL lockout would be baseball and Madden 2012 by EA.

  11. Kal says:

    Answer to cracking the potential fans in the U.S!!!
    just keep repeating the Arsenal – Tottenham games from these past few years….now that will get people hooked :)
    Nothing like back and forth attacking football, goals a plenty, massive open spaces in midfield and shaky defense to get people interested in the premiere league brand.
    As a neutral I love watching these games.

  12. NoOneLikesUsWeDontCare says:

    As an avid soccer follower from the US, let’s flip this situation to show why EPL in the States would never work. Let’s of course hope this never happens but, if the EPL went down for a year, would English fans follow the NFL? The money making games with the big teams here are the Sunday and Monday night matches, which start at 8:30 PM our time, which is 1:30 AM in England (Minus the time of year when there are time changes). The main issue is the time difference. Im sorry but not many fans are willing to wake at the crack of dawn or even 10 AM to watch these matches. I will continue to do, but my fellow countrymen won’t follow suit.

  13. richardfromnyc says:

    To all those people who think that having more soccer on ESPN will grow the sport in America – just ask any fan of NHL or NASCAR of how ESPN grew their sport audience wise when ESPN had their TV rights. Be glad that the majority of games are on the FSC and FSC+.

  14. ST says:

    Insightful and well-written. We Americans can be so stubborn. Maybe there is hope for us this year.

    I don’t agree with the flip side argument re: an EPL lockout. I think Americans have the potential to like soccer for many reasons (Team USA and the World Cup, MLS, so many kids playing the sport, etc.), while I don’t see Europeans having the same incentives to like any American sports such as football. Now bring on fantasy soccer and the masses will be hooked!

    • NoOneLikesUsWeDontCare says:

      Yes it is true the World Cup was a major boost for the United States. The problem though is that it only happens every four years. So in June of last year, soccer had a major ratings boost and just a year later, were back trying to increase ratings. I like the point about Fantasy Soccer though :D.

  15. dan says:

    MLS should get the boost and its is more deserving.

  16. Shaun says:

    I watched quite a few NFL games at bars last year and I was surprised at how distracted people are from the games. I suspect that the average American football fan is too ADD to watch long stretches of continuous action. The lack of commercial breaks also hurts advertising.

  17. Anthony says:

    Before 03 I didn’t really care about the EPL, between 03 and last year, it was an interesting thing to watch on Saturday. This year it became an absolute obsession, if you sat an intelligent American down with the EPL everyday, they would love it. This is not a sport, this is a soap opera, everyday there’s a big story and it gets you addicted. After a season of watching this league, it makes the NFL look lame.

  18. Smokey Bacon says:

    The average NFL fan will not switch to soccer. They will more likely go watch the truck racing channel or some other crap. I’d much prefer to keep the EPL under the radar for the hardcore soccer fan. If I were Gerber however, I’d be promoting the hell out of MLS in August through November to maybe catch a few converts.

  19. Elliott says:

    As a fan of both the NFL, cfb, the EPL, and MLS, I’d rather the networks cut out all the post and pre-game crap and just show athletes playing sports.

    I also think that the NFL and NBA disputes will hurt the leagues ala the NHL a few years back – and MLS at least has gained serious ground on hockey in the US.

  20. Mr.Prodg says:

    I think because MLS is badly structured it has denied soccer a chance of being popular here in the states. I also think that ESPN needs to acquire some Serie A games as well so that the viewers get a different taste. I love having the EPL on ESPN but not a lot of sports fans, let alone new fans are going to get up and watch the 730am game here on the east coast. If Espn was to show 3 games on saturdays, epl, la liga and serie a, then maybe 2 on sundays, and a monday game if possible, a lot more ppl would buy into soccer and possibly grow to like it.

  21. Clair says:

    Actually… ESPN does have room to air more EPL.

    Saturday:
    – ESPN: SportsCenter & College football/basketball pregame
    – ESPN2: Whats on before 12 noon est? EPL in the early AM. Nothing (only another SportsCenter) between EPL & college. Why not another EPL fixture? They can put SportsCenter on ESPNEWS, like they already do during the week.

    Sunday:
    – ESPN: SportsCenter/random long-time-running studio shows/NFL pre-game.
    – ESPN2: I actually have no clue! How about 1-2 fixtures?

    That is… at the max… 3 additional fixtures. They already have 1 Saturday AM & Monday night fixtures. That is… at the max… 5 fixtures… per week!

    • Yespage says:

      I’m under the impression that Sportscenter could probably compete rating wise with the EPL, especially any non-Big 4 main event sort of matchup, ie… Man U. v Chelsea.

      • Clair says:

        I am thinking if there is a live sporting event & SportsCenter on in the AM… people will opt for the live sporting event.

        SportsCenter is on almost all the time, plus you have ESPNEWS.

  22. CricketLover says:

    Most NFL fans keep their Sunday afternoons open to watch football games. EPL games are on Saturday and Sunday mornings. FSC shows an Italian Serie A game at 2:45 PM ET on Sundays so if any league would benefit it would be Serie A. ESPN could use ESPN2 to show La Liga games when a game is being shown on ESPND. The Sunday La Liga games are on Sunday afternoons. So La Liga would possibly benefit too, probabaly more than Serie A since most people get ESPN2 but not all get FSC. So while La Liga and Serie A could benefit the EPL would not.

  23. Simon says:

    Epl will not benefit from the NFL not going on the EPL is on at the Wong time of the day. Now I do think that Football-soccer will get a boost from no NFL but it won’t come from the EPL. The league that will Benefit will be the Serie A and laleagea why do I say the Serie A well because its on at 2:30 pm well their will be dead space at that time on Fox so if there is a good game on they mite put it on FOX and not FSC now I also think lake some one else said that La Liga we mite see more of it on ESPN. But if you think soccer will see a BIG bump it wont happen some NFL fans wont give soccer the time of day lets call those people close mind people but there are plenty of open mind people who will say you no I think I will give soccer a try and hey all you need is a good game with a lot going on and you mite have a new fan. I will say that is what happened to me in 98 I just end up watching a soccer game late at night before I went to bed well the game was so good I ended up not going to bed until 3:00 am o and I had school the next day. Try telling the teachers why I look like I just got out of bed because I was watching soccer. What I am saying is you see a big bump but you will see some kind of bump.

  24. Santino says:

    The EPL (or MLS, for that matter) is no more likely to gain from an NFL lockout than fishing or knitting. People aren’t just suddenly going to start watching an entirely different sport because the one they like most isn’t on, particularly when that other sport hours several hours earlier on more obscure outlets. The MLB regular season runs through September and the playoffs through October, so unless it’s a very lengthy lockout the season will start before MLB’s ends. If not, the NHL (much higher ratings than the EPL) will be starting even if the NBA has a lockout.

    The ratings for the CL final were up, but they basically represent the maximum a club match can get in the US (Cup final, two famous and popular clubs, Rooney/Messi/Iniesta). The growth over last year’s was as much as the fact that there are twice as many followers of Barcelona or Manchester United (each) than of Internazionale and Bayern Munich combined.

  25. Mark Wolfson says:

    Before you go anointing the EPL as the next “big thing” in the American sports landscape consider this. Last weekend the ESPN networks televised four collegiate women’s softball games. All four of them got higher ratings than the US Men’s soccer team playing the reigning world champions.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Mark, the USA versus Spain game was a meaningless friendly. If it had been a game that really mattered, I’m sure the TV ratings would have been much higher than the Women’s College World Series last weekend.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  26. Tom` says:

    After watching the U.S.- Panama game and the “excellent” officiating, I don’t believe I’ll be wasting anymore time watching the U.S. national team. They out=played Panama, but overall I think there is too much anti-U.S. Bias in officiating. I agree that penallty kick was deserved, however the rest of the calls seemed a bit much, to the point that the U.S. players started to get frustrated and started to play dirty themselves toward the end of the game. If this type of officiating is what will be offered to the American public and its sense of justice, good luck in expanding U.S. soccer’s foot-print. I really enjoy watching a good soccer match, and this game showed me that not much has changed sinxe last year’s world cup where the art of faking one’s injury ruined the game.

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