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U.S. Debut of ESPN Arena Features Virtual Wayne Rooney On-Screen


Eagle-eyed viewers of ESPN2′s Manchester United against Wolves live coverage on Saturday will have noticed the US debut of ESPN Arena, the virtual soccer analysis system that dazzled viewers in the UK in October.

Before the match kicked off, pundits Craig Burley and Steve McManaman stood in a UK studio and gave their analysis regarding Wayne Rooney’s changed role with Manchester United from a centre forward to a midfielder. The two pundits interacted with the ESPN Arena virtual pitch and flicked Wayne Rooney off the pitch and “into life” as a full-sized Wayne Rooney then stood up, arms folded and looking at the TV viewer.

Burley and McManaman continued to show off some of the other features of ESPN Arena such as players being able to run across the pitch, quadrants being illustrated on the pitch to show open spaces and much more. At one point, even, Wayne Rooney looked back over his shoulder at Burley and McManaman to remind them that he was listening intently to any criticism they may have been making.

The US debut of ESPN Arena was a success. There were technical glitches, and the technology itself has a ton of potential. There are other features that ESPN Arena can do that weren’t shown on Saturday (see EPL Talk’s article and videos on the technology), but the bottom line was that the debut was a success.

The key to the continued success of ESPN Arena will be using the technology, not for technology’s sake, but to explain tactics in such a convincing manner that ESPN Arena makes it easier for the viewer to comprehend. The example of Wayne Rooney’s changed role at United is something that most die-hard soccer fans are fully aware of, so the information shared wasn’t eyeopening. The ESPN Arena graphics were. Let’s hope ESPN can combine the eyeopening ESPN Arena technology with equally eyeopening tactical observations in the weeks and months to come.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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6 Responses to U.S. Debut of ESPN Arena Features Virtual Wayne Rooney On-Screen

  1. Bob Ruediger says:

    Brilliant! I just hope that this is the first step to more in-depth analysis in the US. It gets a little annoying watching broadcasts where the commentators have to dumb down every bit of their dialogue to “adapt” to American viewers. There are plenty of us who keep ourselves updated through our mobile technology and we don’t need our commentators beating dead horses just because the general population doesn’t keep in touch with the latest news in the EPL.

    Well written article Gaffer, concise but very interesting. The video was a great touch too.

  2. Jason says:

    So I guess we can expect Fox to use this technology when? I say never.

  3. dan says:

    Rooney? Pretty sure that was Mata…

    • The Gaffer says:

      The above video was the one from ESPN Arena in the UK in October. If you watched the Manchester United game on Saturday, you’ll have seen Wayne Rooney pop up on the screen.

      The Gaffer

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