FOX Soccer today announced that basketball announcer Gus Johnson will be the lead commentator for several high profile Premier League and Champions League matches over the next few months. Plus, Sports Illustrated have revealed that Johnson is being groomed by FOX to be the voice of FOX’s World Cup coverage for 2018 and 2022.
The former CBS Sports announcer, best known for his work as the energetic commentator for March Madness games, will call his first-ever match for FOX Soccer on Wednesday February 13 when he’ll get behind the mic for Real Madrid against Manchester United alongside co-commentator Warren Barton.
Not only that, but FOX has decided that Gus Johnson will also commentate on Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (February 19 with co-commentator Ray Clemence), Manchester City vs Chelsea (February 24 with co-commentator Lee Dixon), the FA Cup Final (May 11), Champions League Final (May 25), as well as several other Premier League matches.
“This is not something that is temporary,” Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated. “This is something we are going to work at. It isn’t an Olympic assignment where he does the luge for two weeks and then we don’t hear from that announcer for the next four years. This is something we are serious about and something we will continue to work at. Based on the radio games and the practice games Gus has done, I think this is going to work.”
FOX Soccer’s own press release admits that Johnson calling soccer is “a relatively new undertaking.”
Executive Vice President and General Manager of FOX Soccer David Nathanson said, “Gus has spent the last year-and-a-half getting ready to call what is a new sport for him, and I applaud the work, study and time he’s devoted to his preparation. He respects how passionate and knowledgeable the soccer fan is, and while his education continues, he’s ready to lend his classic American voice to the world’s biggest sport.”
According to FOX, Johnson has called over a dozen MLS games on radio, played pick-up soccer games in a park, spent several weeks in Europe last season attending games and conversing at length with Sky Sports executives and announcer Martin Tyler.
“In Madrid, Johnson is partnering with FOX Soccer analyst Warren Barton,” said the FOX statement. “Barton, along with former players Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones have aided Johnson tremendously in his soccer broadcasting education, collaborating with him on numerous practice telecasts under the tutelage of FOX Soccer Executive Producer Jonty Whitehead.”
“No doubt that the followers of this sport are among the most passionate, knowledgeable fans in the world, and I’m a newcomer,” said Johnson. “The effort to learn the sport and absorb its nuance has been a humbling experience. While I’ve put a lot of time into my preparation thus far, it’s definitely going to take a lot of reps before I’ve mastered soccer’s rhythm and pace, but I am determined to do so, and with all the support I’m receiving I have no doubt that I will.”