FOX’s FA Cup Soccer Coverage Still Pales In Comparison To Competition

FOX had a mixed weekend covering the FA Cup, the first full-fledged weekend of soccer on the network’s channels since the shutdown of FOX Soccer in September.

The wall-to-wall FA Cup coverage, that included FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX over-the-air, included extensive highlights and studio shows. The FA Cup, often a throwaway in the years the network owned Premier League rights, was promoted throughout the week. As always, Rob Stone presented well, moderating studio discussions and giving timely updates. Stone’s presence in the studio chair has grown from being a young, somewhat offbeat host on ESPN’s Major League Soccer programming in the late 90s to a polished professional whose love for the game always shines through.

But as is always the case with FOX, there were far more negatives than positives. As mentioned earlier, Stone is a good host, but Warren Barton continues to give simplistic analysis that at times boggles the mind. Eric Wynalda continues to be a mixed bag, combining strong points with silly reactionary ones. Brian McBride is less assertive than he needs to be and while his analysis has grown stronger, he remains more awkward on camera and less assured in his demeanor than his colleagues.

But talent is not FOX’s biggest problem. It’s their programming format and production value. One of the most confusing elements is the FOX Soccer branding on some graphics while the studio and other on air graphics read FOX Sports 1. It would be more understandable if the graphics were similar in style, but they are not. The mishmash of graphics resembled the types of productions ABC, CBS or NBC would have in the late 1980s or early 1990s when switching between graphics packages. But in those days, graphics were less subtle and these things were less noticeable.

The problem is that FOX has made loud graphics a trademark of its sports coverage and the lack consistency was on full display throughout all the studio programs. Also the size of these on-air graphics was highly distracting from attempting to watch highlights or focus in on the studio team.

The types of tactical discussions Premier League fans in the United States have become accustomed to since NBC gained the rights to the league were completely absent from both days coverage. While many are of the opinion that FOX’s studio talent is not in the same league as NBC, they really are not given the chance to show their knowledge or understanding of the game in the format the network chooses for highlights and analysis.

Another awkward element of the FOX broadcasts was the presence of Julie Stewart-Binks giving FOX Soccer Daily updates. As we’ve previously reported on World Soccer Talk, the show has been shelved for the time being as FOX looks to reformat the program going forward. The updates were items that easily could have been read by Stone perhaps even with more confidence and authenticity.

While FOX appears to have taken some steps forward and the presence of the FA Cup on networks with wider distribution than in the past is a positive, the network’s coverage is still miles from where it needs to be.

Editor’s note: For more news, analysis and opinion regarding FOX’s coverage, visit the FOX soccer page.

33 thoughts on “FOX’s FA Cup Soccer Coverage Still Pales In Comparison To Competition”

  1. I always believed Fox could’ve delivered a better product when it had the EPL but simply refused to do so because they didn’t feel like it.

    Well, NBC has put Fox’s years of coverage to shame in less than one full year.

    Article is spot on.

  2. Wynalda acts like a giggling schoolboy while waiting to ‘rib’ Barton. He sits there snickering and glancing at the others and then makes a naff joke about Barton’s playing days. Enough already! Stone’s constant over-enunciation of words make him sound like a local TV news presenter. They rarely show any interviews or deviate from the desk formula we have been seeing for years. NBCSN have upped the game now. Some new faces at Fox would be an improvement.

    1. Spot on. Stone was a sportsnews presenter here in Tampa…and not a good one, since he made it perfectly clear that he lusted after a job at the network.

  3. I just can’t bare the thought of these talentless clowns bringing us the next two world cups after Brazil. From the shoddy production values to the woeful punditry, the whole thing is truly awful.

  4. I haven’t watched a lick of Fox FA Cup broadcasts this weekend. Streaming for me. And I agree that the Fox Soccer Daily Update stuff is unnecessary. Just kill the brand already.

  5. What bothered me the most about todays broadcasts of the actual games was that the video was not full screen. They had the scrolling graphics at the bottom of the screen the entire time. This is something that Fox is really bad about, and another thing NBC gets right. They (NBC) made the right decision at the beginning of the EPL season to have the games without any obtrusive graphics at the bottom of the screen.

    I can’t tell you how frustrating this is for me. Not only is it distracting, it pushes the video in, causing there to be small but noticeable column bars on the sides.

  6. The only one worth salvaging is Stone who I agree is professional in his role. The other three have such horrible chemistry that it’s hard to envision any of them doing well with any different talent around them. I don’t mind a bit of irreverent humor or banter but when it’s done with a lack of chemistry or substance it turns into a train wreck.

  7. While I don’t disagree with the points made, I think we get the point about FOX. I’ve seen the same type of criticism about the network 4-5 times this season (calling it FA Cup coverage or UCL is merely semantics). Continuing to beat a dead horse will not change a thing. Maybe with the Bundesliga on deck next year new pundits, but FOX is too stubborn to shake up the “talent” so things will remain status quo. I’m just glad to see all the games on my basic Directv package in HD, for the first time in my life.

    1. Pregame Bundesliga shows featuring Michael Ballack, Lens Lehman and “The American” Rob Stone. Hilarity ensues!

    2. I think there is more frustration now because we have seen that it can be done properly. ESPN got the World Cup right in 2010 after years of complaining from fans and incremental improvement. NBC got it right immediately by believing that it was worth the investment to produce a top-notch presentation to compliment the delivery of the matches.

      FOX did the NFL very well from the beginning (primarily because they just lifted CBS’s NFL talent when they won the rights) but every other sport they have touched has been bemoaned by the fans of that sport (MLB, NHL, BCS).

  8. Stone is good, Barton and Wynalda just argue out loud like two old men in a pub.

    Crap coverage of a great competition, and why the hell Fox persist with Barton is beyond me. When you see what NC have done in recruiting articulate presenters it begs the question as to who is running the Fox soccer production.

  9. I have to compliment the Fox Network broadcast of the Arsenal v Spurs match for not running the ticker at the bottom of the screen unlike the Fox Sports 1 FA Cup matches which all seemed to have the ticker.

    The other thing I appreciate about the Fox Network broadcast is that it was shown in letterbox format on Standard Definition TV which results in a much better picture quality. I am in a home with one HD set so I’m usually stuck watching soccer on one of our old SD sets. The EPL matches on NBC over-the-air are not letterbox which results in a really crappy picture quality on a SD set.

  10. I agree with the above points, and I’d also like to add that the audio of the Arsenal v Tottenham game on Fox was about a second ahead of the video. It might not seem like much, but I found it surprisingly distracting.

  11. In comparison to NBC Fox does not measure up. I would suggest that the FA Cup being their major soccer property does not lend itself well to coverage from a network point of view. To only present the Cup leaves the network with making a major commitment for let’s face it is now a second level limited event. Not that it is not enjoyable in any sense. I love seeing the small clubs advance and so does everyone. Yet we all know some major clubs strategically bow out. NBC did it right but had to do it right if it was going to present the EPL.

    When the other soccer products like the World Cup come to Fox and the presentation does not improve its time to worry.

    1. I’m pretty sure most would consider the Champions League the majory property. England National Team, FA Cup, and Gold Cup are more filler that they promote as first line events.

  12. Fox’s coverage of soccer has gone from bad to worse. When they had the EPL they were bad. Now with the FA Cup they are worse. Not looking forward to them covering the 2018 World Cup.

  13. It seems some here don’t remember a time when the idea of watching even the world cup on English language TV in America was a fantasy. I agree with Javier that this Fox bashing – as valid as it may be – is getting a little old. I’m more than thankful that I get to see the FA cup live now. The punditry is a bonus.

  14. Sorry, but I totally disagree. I know that it’s hip to pile-on Fox Soccer, but I much prefer their broadcasts. NBC absolutely puts me to sleep. Fox, however, is exciting. At the risk of sounding xenophobic, I also appreciate how many American voices Fox puts on the air, especially the Fox Soccer Update. I don’t know why we have such an inferiority complex about soccer that other networks feel the need to use foreign talent to lend gravitas. Anyways, Fox has been the trailblazer for soccer coverage. I think we US soccer fans are afraid that our hipster sport might become mainstream, so we feign such offense at people like Gus Johnson because their analysis isn’t intellectual enough. The reason why he is a good commentator across several sports is because he is exciting, not because he can offer a discourse on the history of USMNT tactical formations. Soccer is a simple sport: NBC and others try to complicate it to make 0-0 score lines seem exciting. To sum it up: bring back Fox Soccer Update: it was the best show on tv. These pundits have actual personality. The only change I would make is to assign Stoner as the host because JSB doesn’t seem all that interested in soccer. Or, have an alumnus from USWNT take the seat…that would instantly give the show gravitas. As a political liberal, I never thought I would write this, but kudos to Fox.

    1. I agree with most of the points you made. All this bickering about the punditry seems especially petty when you remember that just ten years ago the idea of Fox or NBC main channels showing Chelsea vs. Man U on a Saturday afternoon seemed as much a pipe dream as flying cars!

      I get plenty of pre and post-game analysis from online sources. For the TV presentation, I’d rather have a lively atmosphere that gets me in the mood for the game. Fox actually does a better job of that than NBC. The latter’s pre-game, while more in depth, often borders on dull.

    2. The notion that soccer is a ‘simple’ sport is exactly the kind of ridiculous patronizing attitude that keeps it from being respected in America. Folks think it’s ‘simple’ and therefore ‘boring’-they look at it for five minutes, think they have it sorted out, don’t understand it, and dismiss it. Try to have this approach to the NFL and people want your head on a pitchfork.

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to justify leaving soccer on the telly at a pub here in America I could happily go back to the UK.

      The sport has history, and this should be respected. It has strategy and tactics, just like popular sports in America. Personally, I don’t care if I hear American accents or Canadian accents or British accents.

      All I really want is to have the game that millions of people around the world love, a game that has brought men and women together, a game that ‘gives suffering people joy’ (as a great footballer once said)given it’s due. I like the respect for tradition that NBC affords the EPL, as opposed to the ‘hey, there’s this crazy sport that folks in far away places like that we could probably make a bit of money off of, let’s throw some guys at it and hope for the best, eh?’ that I get from Fox.

      I do think it would be neat to have a different, unique kind of presentation of MLS, maybe. Let those Fox pundits shape the commentary for a league that is relatively new, and let the traditions that have been around for decades be presented as such by those in the know. I think what this comes down to is familiarity-if you’re British and you’ve grown up with the game, it makes sense that you would have a better idea of the way the sport has evolved in the EPL. It’s not about ‘gravitas’-we simply don’t have many professional sports folks here who are as well versed in the league. That’s no one’s fault. No one would expect an NFL commentator to be able to suddenly call an Aussie Rules game.

      Imagine an American kid who can listen to the experts, to the pundits who know what they’re talking about, who aren’t trying to ‘translate’ soccer for America but instead trying to give a sense of the sport as the rest of the world sees it. This kid will grow up with it, and he may be that announcer you hear years down the road. That’s what I’m hoping for.

    3. I love this post so much it made my day. The hipster EPL fan is the minority who thinks just because the pundits are American they dont know what they are talking about.

  15. To me it really doesn’t matter that much who the voices are that covers
    the EPL or the FA Cup whether they are American or British, because I
    believe those who cover the game will do a fantastic job at it.

    The production of these games are much bigger and sadly FOX Sports has
    slowly failed because they keep throwing the money out for the signal
    to bring to the states and that’s it. Not a single announcer from FOX
    till they went to the UCL Final & till they asked Gus Johnson to go
    to Europe to cover an EPL match and an FA Cup match.

    NBC truly blows FOX out of the water because of one simple word, they
    CARE about how their production of the sport or sports that they cover
    and give it a true 1,000%. The only reason why FOX started putting
    Gus Johnson out there live recently is that they knew NBC was going to
    do that with Arlo White.

    So the Bundasliga is coming to Fox Sports 1 & 2? They wished they never
    have, because I think it’s going to be the same mess as before.

    On a personal note, I don’t mind Gus Johnson. I think he does a good job
    and he should deserve as much time to learn the game and gets to call it
    the right way.

    1. Im honestly its just happy its on TV. I dont really care for studio coverage as it does not bother me as much as it does others. To your Gus point I love him as well esp for the US games. In time he can be a great commentator for American soccer.

  16. Just compare how interesting the analysis is on NBC which follows a UK style format to what Fox offers. They are miles apart, unless of course you enjoy the silly basic observations Fox present which a kid could make.

    Rob Stone a good presenter???? Rebecca puts him in the shade. She is knowledgable and very natural. He just sounds like a guy being told what to do. As for Barton he cannot enunciate properly and becomes angry when Man Utd lose and shouts over everyone else. He cannot read a game, something I would think is paramount being the token “British” ex player. Wynalda looks confused like he’s wandered in off the street and poor Brian McBride tries but he comes across as a nice young man who could be handing out carts at the local Wal Mart. Stone just sits at the end with star dust in his eyes. And the bird tries to sound assertive but lets face it they’ve stuck her out there as eye candy. I expect she’ll make it to weather girl one day.

    Fox has had ample time and opportunity to really put some effort and make changes to this show, but they aren’t interested. This is very apparent during the half time breaks etc when they have little or nothing to talk about except the obvious – the fashionable team in the match and their star players and then totally ignore the opposition.

    The big difference is NBC has gone to great lengths to knows its customers and continues to listen to them. Fox couldn’t care less.

  17. I give Fox props for at least having the home county announcers and not give us their in house teams.. To include the mumbling McBride. Of course that’s not to say they won’t screw that up in the latter stages.

    Punditry has been horrible for a long time on fox. Stone is clueless.. I’m stunned at the comments above saying he knows and loves the game. He is an absolute joke.. Don’t even get me started on his amerrrricunnn thing. McBride isn’t even talking in full sentences, Wynalda is just looking for a reason to laugh with Barton .. Barton CAN do better.. But not with this crew.. My nine year old daughter can pick apart Barton’s analysis. Julie Binks is like a deer in headlights.. She read the same Eusebio piece three times… These people have no credibility.. Which really shows when compared to NBC’s approach.

    Fox actually has their Rebecca Lowe.. Georgie Thompson … Get rid of stoner and the rest and give her the shot of leading the footy coverage. Fox is in dire straights with their footy coverage lets hope they make some big changes soon.

  18. There is no punditry at Fox.. For years now most people had nothing to compare Fox to.. Now NBC has shown just how bad and not serious Fox think so it’s soccer properties. Stone knows Nothing about the game… I remember numerous times Barton would have to correct him saying names of teams like Norwich and Derby. Wynalada tries but both he and Barton talk like two ten year olds. And Mcbride… Geez where do you begin with him, he gets worse with every broadcast. The Jar Jar bonks girl is clueless She should stay with her native hockey.

    Fox won’t listen… I streamed every match… Get used to it because they are going to ruin the Fa Cup and Champions league here soon enough


  19. I could care less if the voices were American or British but do care if the voices have something interesting and nuanced to say…personally I’m not a Rob Stone fan…yes he is professional but when he says things like “first kick” it makes me shudder…I want to hear kickoff, pitch, etc universally used terms for the game we all love not some cheapened Americanized version.

    I really wish FOX would step up and realize the error of their ways. Thanks for bringing the EPL to the US but that’s about it. I am shuddering for the WC.

    Another point is that while I understand it ultimately comes down to $$$ it frustrates me that FOX is more interested in sucking subscribers with their various “platforms” (paid fox online). NBC just gets it…they will get more eyeballs and more advertising if they make more games accessible. I don’t have to pay any extra subscription than having NBC sports in my cable package and I’m set. It makes me wonder if the people in charge of soccer at FOX really understand their customer base or even the game.

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