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The Verdict On The Quality of Euro 2012 TV Coverage Thus Far

euro 2012 ball tiff 600x397 The Verdict On The Quality of Euro 2012 TV Coverage Thus Far

Another major soccer tournament has kicked off, and so too has the complaints about the quality of the coverage. Whether you live in the United States, England or Australia, you only have to look on Twitter to read soccer fans moaning about the Euro 2012 coverage. Sometimes I wonder whether soccer fans can ever be satisfied.

Up until now, I’ve kept quiet about the TV coverage. Over the past week, I’ve been spending my time watching ESPN, ITV and BBC, to see what their Euro 2012 coverage is like, as well as listening to talkSPORT and BBC Five Live for their radio coverage. On top of that, I’ve been watching Sky Sports News to see what their take is on the tournament.

What I’ve discovered is that the TV coverage of Euro 2012 is not that different no matter what network you watch. The formula is essentially the same during the pre-match, half-time and post-match analysis. The biggest difference is the caliber of the presenters and pundits on hand. But just as some consumers prefer Pepsi over Coke, it all comes down to personal taste. Some of us like Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage. Others like Bob Ley, Rebecca Lowe, Alexi Lalas, Roberto Martinez and Michael Ballack. We may find some people prefer Adrian Chiles, Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher, Patrick Vieira and Gareth Southgate. Or, some of us will like a combination of the above. However, the reality is that TV networks can’t make everyone happy. At the end of the day, they do the best they can, and hope viewers tune in.

The more I watch the different varieties of Euro 2012 TV coverage, the more I wonder if we, as soccer fans, even know what we want. What do we expect to see? What are we comparing it against?

We all come to the table with different styles and ideas of what we’d like to see, if we even know what we want. We know a good thing when we see it (see ESPN’s coverage of World Cup 2010), but that comes at a price. We may not agree with everything that Alexi Lalas or Michael Ballack says, but that’s what they’re paid to do. They’re there to provide their analysis. It’s so easy for we soccer fans to criticize what they say, and how they say it, but I believe it’s time to give them a break. Unless, of course, they say something factually incorrect, or completely inane. Otherwise, I think it’s time to pat the networks on the back for giving us superb coverage of what has been, so far, a very engaging tournament.

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. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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44 Responses to The Verdict On The Quality of Euro 2012 TV Coverage Thus Far

  1. Josh says:

    I don’t know anybody who likes the ITV guys, haha. Match of the Day’s coverage is fine. I especially like Savage. I haven’t watched any BBC coverage of Euro 2012 though.

    I haven’t heard any complaints about TSN’s coverage in Canada, which is very odd. Darren Anderton has made an impressive debut. I just wish we got to hear Darke and Rae up here.

  2. eddymc2 says:

    Lalas…I can’t find the words. Not good at all, in my opinion.

  3. bob says:

    watched bbc on saturday when redknapp was on: excellent insightful discussion. Dont care for lalas still think he lost that goattee in a fight. some lucky dude out there carries it proudly on his belt.

  4. David says:

    Agreed. Lalas and Ballack are there to compliment one another. They disagree 90% of the time. The arrogant fans will say Lalas doesn’t know anything because he’s American and Ballack is a legend German player. But the two are placed their to bounce arguments off one-another for sure.

    The coverage from a production standpoint with ESPN has been superb. The commentating in game and pre/post game has been a mixed bag, as is the case with any commentary team over a month long tournament. I have zero complaints with the production as a whole, just with the network for not promoting it outside the 11:45am-5:00pm window. This tournament has had so much talent on the field and is one of the best advertisements for the game in America that I’ve seen in a while. Hope more get to see it and the talking heads on SportsCenter, PTI, etc. talk about it more before it’s over.

    • CTBlues says:

      The talking heads on PTI and Around the Horn know nothing about soccer and they prove this the few times they even talk about soccer. The only way I would want ESPN to have anything on those programs is if they bright on people that have some sort of idea of what soccer is because the people that are on those shows all the time DO NOT cover soccer at all because 99% of them work for news papers. Now if they could get someone like Grant Saul to be a talking head I could probably deal with it, but not Tony Kornhieser or Mike Whilbon.

      • David says:

        Great point. And I may have misspoke regarding the PTI comparison. What I really would like is for ESPN to have regular banter about the sport. I make the argument for SportsCenter still because it’s their only daily all sports news show and it would be great if they could shine some light on the sport outside of a top 10 play or something on a regular basis.

      • Barkis says:

        Tony Kornheiser shouldn’t be allowed to comment on anything, ever. He’s a complete waste of water.

  5. DaveG says:

    ESPN has done an outstanding job to be fair…showing the pregame walkout and national anthems brings about a part of the game that most US fans dont readily understand…as an Irishman I was wailing buckets listening to the team and thousands of fans singing our national anthem, what a memory!!!
    I am not a fan of Lalas/Ley or Keller…I think that compared to the rest of the on air talent they are unable to offer a strong tactical opinion on most games, They tend to default to the masses with their observations and this in turn dumbs down and devalues their opinions.
    M Ballack is slow and methodical in his opinions and this seems to infuriate Lalas who wants to be the big guy big mouth on campus…I was hoping for more than this, people like Rebecca Lowe and roberto martinez are insightful in their observations and tend to look deeper into the nuances of selection and tactical movement during the match.
    Just my 2 cents, but have to say overall that ESPN is doing a bang up job

  6. gillian rosheuvel (@mezz98) says:

    “They’re there to provide their analysis.”

    Gaffer, thank you for understanding the difference between “they’re,” “there” and “their.”

    My issue w/Lalas isn’t his opinions; it’s his know-it-all tone and tendency to interrupt others that really grate.

    In general, I have few complaints about the Euro 2012 coverage I’m getting in Chicago.

  7. Paul says:

    Lalas is probably the worst tv pundit that in the Euro 12 coverage. Very generic. It’s like he watches something other pundits on other network say and he repeats what they say.

    ESPN’s production has been great though. If only they had the pundits to match it. Why don’t they have whole ESPN PRESS-PASS cast to cover it?

  8. psyer says:

    I wish they actually talk more about tactics in the studio show. Like in the sense of Gary Neville discussion on Sky’s Monday Night Football and Micahel Cox’s zonalmarking.net. Most of the time, the pundits for ESPN, BBC, and ITV just say the typical generic cliches that people can see. Also, I feel that most of the pundits seem to be lacking in know some of the European players and only know the stars. Roberto Martinez is like the only one I’ve seen so far to actually show very good knowledge of this in ESPN’s production. Maybe use Robbie Mustoe as a pundit when he isn’t co-commentating match. He knows his stuff. And maybe they could have hired Michael Laudrap. I’ve seen his punditry for Sky’s La Liga coverage and he seems to do a good job at it. But maybe he is too busy getting the Swansea job to do any punditry for the EUROs. :P

  9. scrumper says:

    Alexi Lalas needs to shut his pie hole once in a while and have someone disconnect the X Box wires. This Rebecca Lowe is much more impressive so Lalas can go home. Ballack is so emotionless they could replace him with a cardboard cut out and nobody would notice. Except perhaps his hairdresser who must spend hours slopping on the gel and rearranging his thinning hairline. He does have some knowledgeable comments although it’s disappointing he’s chosen to be a good German and follow the teachings of their self appointed holiness of all things football – Franz Beckenbaur – and criticize the English defensive game (undoubtedly he’s still refusing to believe Chelsea defeated Bayern).

    Poor old Kasey Keller he starts off a comment pretty well then loses his way and ends up nervously sounding like a 105 year old man breathlessly croaking out his last few words.

    Roberto Martinez is good value and if you want to know where Bob Ley’s kids are – he’s eaten them.

  10. Pete says:

    I think discussing the quality of coverage seems to be an American thing. Most people I know don’t even bother to talk about who is in the studio or who is doing the commentating inside the stadium.

    Although if I was being fussy I don’t like Adrian Chiles, Keane and Viera are pretty boring to listen to and Caragher is hard to understand even for me and I don’t live a million miles away from Liverpool

    • The Gaffer says:

      Pete, that’s not true. The Guardian has written several articles critiquing the BBC and ITV coverage. There’s been more analysis of Euro 2012 TV coverage in the UK than US thus far.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Pete says:

        Well maybe the Guardian has, they need something to complain about, I was talking about people I know not what newspapers fill their pages with.

  11. SSReporters says:

    I’d rather throw myself in front of a train than listen to the nonsense from Lalas and Michael Ballack, who has provided nothing. Kasey Keller refuses to get foreign names right. McManaman is average.

    I wish they’d have had Martinez more often but he’s with ITV most of the time and they’re all in Poland/Ukraine. Darke, Rae, and Healey have all been fine.

    I’m not over the moon with this coverage, it’s better than 2008, but there are some noticeable and embarrassing weak links.

  12. Mac says:

    Personally I see no need to have any sort of studio “experts” at all but I’m realistic and know it’s cheap tv for the companies with hours to fill. Why do I care what ex footballers think ? They’re not beside me when I go to games and somehow I still manage to enjoy them. Just ‘jobs for the boys’ in my opinion.
    Following on from my desire to just watch the games and, after 50 or more years of watching football, do my own analysis, I watch them this way : I try and join the coverage right before kickoff and on the DVR, I simply press pause and do something else for 15 minutes. Then I hit play and enjoy the slightly delayed coverage of the game till half time – at which point I switch to the live feed and usually get the players returning to the pitch and I’m set up to watch the 2nd half.
    90 minutes of pure football with no waffle from people trying to forecast results, analyse every move and generally provide me with information simply based on their views.
    Yep, doing things this way, I have to say I’m really enjoying EVERYONE’S coverage of Euro 2012 !

  13. Fog says:

    Are there pre, half-time and post match shows??? I just fast forward through them. At my age I can’t waste my time with the talking heads…unless David Byrne is in the mix. I do like Rebecca Lowe and Roberto Martinez, but since they are paired with the others I don’t tend to listen to them even. I have been really disappointed with Kasey Keller…this is a pretty big stage to cut your teeth on…and I really miss Ally McCoist…but he has more important matters to tend to…he was great at the WC2010.

    I am always going to be in ESPN’s corner when it comes to any production. They are always top-notch.

  14. Dust says:

    From watching various coverage from the US ESPN to BBC, Aljazera and ITV. I like Rebeca Lowe, Liniker, Wilkins and Redknapp. The ESPN table used by Lalas is great but the tactics and presentation by Laila’s is weak.

    Although saying that, watching Fox Soccer report go to Stone and Barton in an SD box is pretty bad. The SD grainy picture of that production is pretty poor and unfortunate, specifically because they have HD in LA not sure why Bobby’s boys don’t have it up there.

    Oh Lalas, Tommy Smith and Bob Ley just dont cut it, I thought Fowler did a better Job with the World Cup.

  15. JJ says:

    Bob Ley: disaster.
    Alexi Lalas: obnoxious.
    Ballack: dull, (did they audition him?)
    the female host: excellent.

    Bob Ley rambles, shifts thoughts, goes thru the periods at the end of sentences, warbles, … have no idea what the heck he is saying … and surely, neither does Ballack.

    Lalas is there because ESPN thinks that some kids out there thinks he’s cool. uuuughghgh.

  16. Matt says:

    I thought the studio team today was fine from ESPN, maybe it didn’t have the “names” but it was probably the best analysis so far. That Palomo (hopefully thats how you spell his name) guy seemed knowledgeable about even teams like Greece, Czech Republic, Poland and obviously did his research citing quotes from the team’s managers

    I didn’t like it so much on Monday, way too England centric, I honestly don’t think their national team even sells in the US. Italy usually gets the highest ratings I think when it comes to these tournaments in the US

  17. local says:

    I thought it was funny towards the end when Steve McManaman kept referring to England as “We we we” and Ian Darke tried to not sound so biased by saying “England England England”. He is an experienced commentator and I’m sure he’ll talk with Steve about being a neutral commentator and not letting your emotions get the better of you. Plus, this game was being broadcast to an American audience and I think Steve just forgot that. If this were Sky doing it, then I wouldn’t be surprised, because their main audience is the UK. But I think Steve will be more careful in the future..

    • The Gaffer says:

      The same thing happens with American commentators when they commentate USMNT games (i.e. “We we we”).

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  18. Jack Tomczuk says:

    Kasey Keller is a terrible pundit. “scrumper” is right about Keller. He just doesn’t know how to be a pundit and he’s learning on the job during Euro 2012. Keller is the only one who has bothered me all that much because I don’t usually concern myself with most of the pre/post/half-time analysis.

    • Jack Tomczuk says:

      Hopefully, Keller loses his spot in the commentator rotation once the knockout stages begin.

      • Matt says:

        Once the knockout stages begin it will only be Darke/Steve & Healey/Mustoe. Twellman will join Rae for a few of the matches coming up

        And I agree with local, like I said, too English-centric on Monday, Macca was also quite bitter towards Italy for some reason, I mean even during his EPL broadcasts he took some shots at Serie A at occassions

      • SSReporters says:

        Today was Keller’s last game on commentary duty because the Sounders are back in action soon, so you’re fine.

  19. Chris b says:

    That female on espn is Rebecca Lowe from espnuk. Thought she was fantastic filling in for Bob Ley, would love to see more of her. Derek Rae is great IMO, Ian Darke is awesome. Macca is good, and Taylor Twellman is ok. Everyone else I could do without.

  20. Smokey Bacon says:

    ESPN have really stepped up their game starting with Euro 2008. In Ian Darke they have one of the best commentators in the business. Plus the attention they give to the pre-match and anthems is excellent. They finally seem to have grasped what international football is all about. The pundits are ok. Lalas may be embarrassing at times but at least he is interesting. Judging by the level of interest shown by the non-soccer fans in my office, ESPN is definitely having an impact. There was no interest back in 2006 but in 2010 and with this tournament, ESPN seems to be able to attract the casual viewer, which is great for the fan as it means they will likely continue to give significant airtime to the major tournaments.

  21. Tommy says:

    ESPN’s stdio analysis ha been horrible because tey don’t hav the right blend of talent there. As most have said, Lala is terrible, Ballack is boring and Ley just doen’t know the sport enough.

    I think they should just have Rebecca Lowe, Roberto Martineza and the ESPND guy Palombo (I think that’s his name) whom they had today with Bretos and some other guy. Those 3 are the only ones worth listening to.

    The commentating of Darke/McManaman and Rae/Mustoe ar fine. Keep Keller away.

    The coverage of the game has been great.

  22. Fairchild says:

    The pairing of Lalas and Ballack is very awkward and tense. Just happy to be able to catch all the matches. ESPN have Ben amazing at getting replays of the games up for WatchESPN which makes watching the tournament anywhere at anytime a real possibility. Haven’t missed a minute. No better way to kick off summer vacation

  23. Nooblior says:

    Ballack was poor the first day, but I think, to use a cliche, he’s coming into his own now. Pretty pleased with his analysis, but it is funny how he doesn’t even attempt to hide his blatant, albeit deserved, Germanic homer-ness.

    Lalis…. no words

  24. Paul says:

    ITV1 have at least tried to do something a little different with their presentation this tournament. Not only have they travelled to present on-site but they’ve also tried presenting from a local cafe which was something quite different that worked well. Over on BBC One you’d be forgiven for thinking it was any old edition of MOTD – the BBC Sport budget cuts have never been so glaringly obvious as they are now… they’ll be saving all they’ve got for the upcoming Olympics coverage instead. They thought it’d be a good idea to fly people over to report live from pitch side… this didn’t work so 2-days into the thing, they decided to fly Alan Shearer back to Manchester to sit alongside Gary & co instead.

    One thing we can be thankful for from both BBC Sport and ITV Sport is that both have on-site commentary teams. Both HD feeds have been perfect for me via Sky+ HD, graphics have been spot on and in particular I love the ITV1 score bar they’ve introduced for this tournament. Looks great in HD instead of their usual huge mess in the corner of the screen.

    Tournament has taken the country by storm… England match achieved over 15 million viewers from TV coverage alone… that’s without taking into account pubs and outside screens.

  25. Matt says:

    God I do not like that ginger…

  26. Frank says:

    Lalas should not be allowed to be near any microphone. The guy is just plain bad. He makes Ballack look good in comparison yet Ballack hasn’t been that good either. it’s all relative I guess.

    They need to have Roberto Martinez more frequently as he knows the game inside out and his explanation of tactics is very illuminating.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Roberto Martinez is moonlighting between ITV and ESPN. Today, for the Denmark-Portugal game, he’s on the ITV studio set as one of the pundits.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  27. Proof Sheet says:

    I’m in Canada and we are getting Luke Wileman, Jason De Vos and Darren Anderton doing the pre and post game analysis and half time show. They seem to me to be doing fine although Darren Anderton looks like he has had a lot of work done facially. With no see through desk at the analysis table or pretty eye candy, it appears as though the Canadian broadcast has escaped the attention of huhe888 from big soccer fame.

    Two pluses as far as I am concerned…we get the neutral uefa commentary (John Helm et al) as indicated in this website

    http://footballtvcanada.blogspot.ca/

    and thankfully, Dick Howard seems to have been put out to pasture.

  28. Stephen says:

    Healey and Mustoe have been by far my favorite duo. Darke and McMamaman get on my nerves the more I listen to them. Contra some of the comments I’ve enjoyed Keller too. I wish David Pleat was working this.

    As far as the studio guys I usually end up hitting the mute button until the teams come out of the tunnel.

  29. Mike says:

    Lalas is awful. Ballack is OK. If ESPN insists on appealing to American fans, they should have hired Klinsman. Cobi Jones does a good job for the Galaxy, so he would work a lot better too.

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