ESPN Names Ian Darke As World Cup Lead Commentator; Martin Tyler Departs ESPN

ESPN has announced that Ian Darke is the lead commentator for the coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer. Both Darke and Martin Tyler were in contention for the position, but ESPN ultimately decided to go with Darke, who became a cult hero among many Americans after his famous “goal, goal USA” commentary in the 2010 World Cup, as well as his regular appearances commentating Premier League matches for ESPN on Saturday mornings.

ESPN also announced today that the TV network and Martin Tyler have mutually agreed to end Tyler’s contract with the American broadcaster, and that Tyler is now able to pursue other FIFA World Cup opportunities.

“Following World Cup 2010, Ian Darke made a long term commitment to ESPN. That commitment deserves to be rewarded by Ian being the lead commentator at World Cup 2014 for ESPN. With that in mind, it was only right and proper for me to offer to stand down from ESPN’s broadcast of the tournament next year. I’m sure that Ian and ESPN will enjoy a very successful tournament,” said Tyler.

Tyler’s career with ESPN was focused on World Cup 2010, where he commentated 18 of the 64 matches including the opener, the England-USA game, the final and all matches played by England. His contract was through the 2014 World Cup, but ESPN decided to put Darke in the hot seat for World Cup 2014.

Darke will commentate the opening game of the World Cup 2014 between Brazil and Croatia, as well as the World Cup Final and other matches, including all US Men’s National Team games in the tournament.

ESPN’s promotion of Darke to World Cup 2014 lead commentator can be seen as a passing of the torch from the conservative and traditional commentary style of Tyler to the more talkative, emotional and user-friendly approach of Darke.

“Since Ian emerged as our year-round signature voice for soccer, his commentary has elevated our presentation of the sport to new heights,” said Jed Drake, senior vice president and executive producer, ESPN Production. “His experience, authenticity and passion resonate tremendously well with our viewers, who have come to expect the highest-quality soccer commentary from ESPN.”

Darke added: “I am thrilled to be covering another World Cup for ESPN, particularly in such a fanatical hotbed of the sport as Brazil. The venues mean the match windows will be ideal for the ever increasing and passionate community of soccer fans in the USA, who will see every minute of every game.”

In the United Kingdom, Darke is the lead football commentator for BT Sport, covering the Barclays Premier League and other major European leagues.

Editor’s note: For the latest news on ESPN’s World Cup coverage, including TV schedules and more, stay tuned to World Soccer Talk.

21 thoughts on “ESPN Names Ian Darke As World Cup Lead Commentator; Martin Tyler Departs ESPN”

  1. Great quote from Tyler. Class for days, that man.

    It’s too bad ESPN couldn’t find a way for them both to be involved like they did in 2010, but I commend them for giving Darke the main role. He’s definitely become a voice for the sport in America.

    Wish Tyler nothing but the best and hope we get to hear him behind the mic from time to time here still.

    1. He still pops up on the world feed every now and then. I wouldn’t too shocked to see him either return back to the Australian coverage which he did for years before jumping ship to the US coverage or going all in with beIN Sports in the Middle East so they can have the old gang of Keys, Gray & Tyler back together.

      He can’t do anything for the UK coverage because he’s contracted to Sky here which is a shame but he’ll get another gig without too much trouble I would have thought.

  2. Gotta say, I’m sad and happy at the same time. I’m gonna miss Tyler but I’ve grown very fond of Darke! SO it’s a good thing I guess.

    1. It’s certainly not a step down that’s for sure. My personal preference is Tyler but I can appreciate Darke as an equally high quality commentator who is definitely in the same bracket these days. Although with Darke’s slightly lower UK profile since leaving Sky Sports, I still think Tyler edges it over here.

  3. Great! Althoughi wish they couldkeep Tyler around too.
    Prefer Darke though and ive missed him massively on early kickoffs and Monday nights this year.

  4. martin tyler is the best commentator of all time. I donot know why you are comparing him ian darke,i have never seen such a comparisions like that before, he is miles a head.he is the most respected person in the world football I would love him to hear him on world feed but john helm is their leading commentator.

    1. >>”martin tyler is the best commentator of all time.”

      That’s a pretty strong statement. I wonder how many people here remember the late great Peter Jones? His commentaries for BBC radio in the 1970’s and 80’s really were classic. Not only did he know football, but he loved the English language and was a poet behind the microphone.

  5. Not unexpected given ESPN’s preference for the bombast of Darke over the understated style of Tyler, but no Tyler and no Rae makes me sad.

  6. I think this has more to do with the fact that American viewers remember Darke as the voice that called the Donovan goal that got the USA into the knockout stages in the last World Cup. His distinctive and loud voice is what American viewers are used to in American sports.

  7. It’s going to be a good few years for Darke not only that now he’s going to be the lead commentator for ESPN, but because of his work for BT Sport. Due to their acquisition of the CL rights from 2015/16, he could well be the lead commentator for the CL final, the FA Cup final & major BT EPL games.

    Also, pretty classy statement and decision by Tyler – there’s some out there who wouldn’t do what he did. Think it would be likely now he’ll go back to being the lead commentator for SBS Australia’s WC coverage

  8. I don’t think it is an issue of who is better.As far as I am concerned their styles are a little different, but with their diction, enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport it makes them both a couple of the best announcers I have listened to. Standing in the wings, Steve Bowers. Very classy from Mr. Tyler with his statement. Both class acts.

  9. Love them both but Ian clearly became a better known name in the US as well and let’s face it with no knock to Martin Tlyer, Ian Darke has a style more suited to the American audience.

    Any news on who his partner will be and who will be the number 2 team for ESPN?

  10. ESPN wanted Darke to be its lead commentator and Tyler didn’t want to play second fiddle calling lesser matches. Hence the “mutual agreement.”

  11. This move was needed. Martin Tyler’s glory days have long since passed. While I respect what he achieved, his mumbling and rambling are not what we come to expect from world class football announcers today.
    We are blessed with many outstanding British announcers, including Steve Banyard, Arlo White, Jon Champion, Peter Drury, Allan Parry, Guy Mowbry, Ian Crocker, and Gary Taphouse.
    Now can they pair Ian with Steve McManaman?

  12. According to an industry source, Tyler’s contract with ESPN (USA) required ESPN (USA) to assign Tyler to call the 2014 WC final.

    The “Worldwide Leader” figured out a way to push Tyler out the door in order to 1) put Darke in the lead pxp role, and 2) save quite a few dollars in the process.

  13. For me Darke has become a people pleaser with his popularity in the US and panders to the viewers. But good luck to him.

    Perhaps ESPN will really go all out and convince Tommy Smyth to make a comeback.

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