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Jack Bell is a Wanker

New York Times soccer columnist Jack Bell has written a column regarding how the sun has set on English soccer. But rather than use his column to focus on criticizing (deservedly so) the England national team, its tactics, Steve McClaren and the Football Association, Bell unbelievably decides to take some jabs at the Premier League and Fox Soccer Channel.

According to Bell, “The Fox Soccer Channel, an otherwise invaluable resource for live Premier League, Serie A and other leagues from around the world (not to mention Major League Soccer matches) compounds this problem. FSC, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, seems forever locked in an embrace of the Union Jack, obviously because Murdoch’s Sky Sports has the domestic rights to E.P.L. games.

So what do we get over here? Endless highlights of the English game, replete with announcers with English or Scottish accents, speaking in what they claim are soccer terms — pitch, kit, football, gaffer, brace, tapping up — but are really creeping Britishism.

For all its value, which is not to be underestimated or denigrated, FSC should be more, much more, to the game in North America. It is oh-so-easy to push a couple of buttons and dump highlights on viewers, that’s fine. Why can’t FSC ween itself from all things England and do a better job covering the sport in the United States?”

Since Jack Bell has a disdain for using British terms to describe different aspects of soccer, let’s use an English term that describes Bell and examine why the New York Times writer is a wanker:

First, there’s a massive reason why Fox Soccer Channel covers the Premier League (other than the vastly sum it pays for the TV rights each season). The quality of play in the league far surpasses Major League Soccer. The EPL is the most popular sports league in the world for a reason. It’s much more entertaining.

Second, Rupert Murdoch and his Sky Sports corporation does own some of the domestic TV rights to the Premier League in the United Kingdom, but that has no relevance why Fox Soccer Channel shows the matches in the States. Buying the TV rights in the United States to show the Premier League has nothing to do with England. Fox, even though they’re part of the same global corporation that Murdoch runs, has to win the U.S. rights fair and square.

Third, Fox Soccer Channel does an admirable job of covering Major League Soccer after paying a large sum of money this season for coverage of MLS matches.

Fourth, most Premier League matches are played in the morning hours or early afternoon during the midweek, so Fox Soccer Channel doesn’t favor Premier League coverage over Major League Soccer in terms of timeslots. What does Bell expect Fox to do on Saturday and Sunday mornings? Show reruns of Major League Soccer??

Bell later tries to make another point in his column by saying “The on-air personalities at FSC were as crestfallen over England’s elimination as the thousands of fans who trudged home from Wembley last Wednesday after the Croatia game. But FSC’s viewership is hardly composed exclusively of expatriates.”

True, expats are a sizeable and influential percentage of the Fox viewership but the majority are true-blooded American viewers. What Bell fails to realize however is that there are many Americans who watch Fox who support the England national team. Sure they want the United States to succeed too, but many of them feel an affinity to England after watching many of their rising stars since Fox started showing the Premier League in the late 90s.

Rather than criticizing the Fox Soccer Channel for its favoritism toward the Premier League over Major League Soccer, maybe Bell and The New York Times should focus on how they can improve their coverage of Major League Soccer? The New York Times has 28 different podcasts. Not one of them is focused on soccer.

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  1. booji

    November 26, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    wow. jack bell was totally right though. fsc concentrates on the english game, not because it is more entertaining… hell no. argentine, brazilian, spanish, french, dutch football are all far more entertaining. EPL though has the $$ and probably more importantly the language advantage. it is easier for them to just grab the feed for the english game as opposed to spanish or another language.

    please don’t kid yourself when you think that the reason the epl is shown on fsc more often than anything else is because it is more entertaining? you’re obviously a brit who thinks the world revolves around england or britain.

    fsc needs to stop focusing on the english game so much, it is probably a bad thing that the fans end up supporting england because of this, when they should be supporting the USA. personally i’ve grown to HATE the english national team, along with many other people as well because they are shown on fsc all the damn time and that pub team can’t even qualify for the euros. then you think a majority of those who watch fsc actually root for this sorry side? americans hate the british remember? as do a majority of the world. you are the wanker.

  2. JC

    November 25, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Question for Is this betting:

    You mean to tell me you guys have the option to listen to the game, but not the commentators? Are you kidding? If that is true that is awesome!! I have been dreaming of having that option in baseball (and all sports) for the longest time. You’re giving me hope that we might eventually see something similar available over here!

  3. Charlie

    November 25, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Sorry to stray a bit off topic, but “Anonymous” (how bloody clever) clearly needs a reality check…

    Hey 11:20 take you and your yank attitude back to American Football or some dumb sport like that. American Football cost England Euro qualifying and American writers don’t understand football even if they try……

    There is no doubt that NFL game wrecked the pitch at Wembley, and the downpour of rain prior to the Croatia match certainly didn’t help matters.

    But before you start blaming the NFL, Bush, Clinton, Gilligan, McDonald’s and everything else American for England choking (and that’s exactly what England did — choke), that pitch had problems with it well before that NFL game.

    People have been complaining about the pitch at Wembley since the Chel$ki/Man Utd FA Cup Final. It’s been relaid at least twice since the stadium opened and I read after the Croatia match that they’re going to look at totally redesigning it.

    So in addition to America and the NFL, you might want to include some blame for the Met Office for not doing a good enough job in shooing away that rainstorm. Perhaps you’ll consider having a go at the people who so poorly designed Wembley’s pitch in the first place. And if you’re really feeling ambitious, you might try blaming those directly involved in the debacle — The English Team, the ones who really lost the match.

    We have more than enough problems in America right now without having to accept misplaced blame for the failures and shortcomings of English football.

    And by the way, I agree. Jack Bell IS a Wanker.

  4. Anonymous

    November 25, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    If the PL was so popular ESPN would have bid on the rights, particularly the early Saturday game (Noon BT kickoff) and the Monday night game. My hunch is that the raw numbers for the PL are substantially lower than MLS. Now English footy fans are in your face with their kits and teams because it is their primary sport, but the reality many casual sports and even more casual soccer fans check out MLS from time to time. In addition, 7:28s comments is correct- the vast majority of American fans willing to give the game a shot just check out the World Cup and the US vs Mexico friendlies. The ratings fro US-Mexico games both in English and in Spanish exceed that of any other competition or match between world cups.

  5. Kartik

    November 25, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I too know several people who cheer for England and only follow England. They don’t even know if and when the US is playing and don’t care. No offense, but I think our soccer media is skewed towards the British point of view, not that I particularly mind it, but other do. Take my dad for instance. He was born in India and has been in the US since he was 20. He has no interest in BPL or UEFA Champions League but has watched MLS since its inception and used to take me to NASL and ASL games when I was a kid. He has ordered Direct Kick and in general seems disdainful of all the English oriented coverage on American networks. Thus my dad watches far less of FSC than he would if it were more “American” in its presentation.

  6. Simon Burke

    November 25, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Good debate this, the article is written by a muppet in honesty but I can see why an American soccer channel should be more American. ESPN presents its coverage in a more American manner and frankly I hate it, I think the Americans on FSC are very good (and the Canadians) and yes they are modelled on the British way of doing it but its more in depth than ESPN’s coverage which is all glitz and shouting. ESPN’s Europeans however are better than their American counterparts (come on, Julie Foudy? Eric Wynalda?)but that may just be personal preference.
    Gaffer is right in that the EPL doesnt clash with MLS in terms of time so air them both (which they do). The Americans tend to overly focus on Americans in the EPL so Bell’s argument isnt great here either. Also I know several Americans who cheer on England – most now support America finally (this wasnt always the case) but a lot cheer England as a second team. You can make soccer more American in its lingo here but that doesnt mean te product will be any better – I dread to think what Bell would think of Ray Hudson who i cant stand and is an example of terrible British commentating.

  7. bcjohn02

    November 25, 2007 at 7:49 am

    To anonymous at 2:44 am

    You mean to tell me that the pitch could not be replaced in one months time? You mean to tell me that you simply cannot admit one simple fact and that is the England National Team simply does not play…oh wait for it…like a team? Sorry the fact is that while you may claim you have the best players in the world (and time and time again it’s been proven wrong)you do not have the best team. They are two totally different things and sadly your blinded by ignorance to that fact. Either grow up or seek some professional counseling.

  8. is this betting

    November 25, 2007 at 7:45 am

    It’s quite ironic to hear about whether the commentators should be American or British as in England few people take any notice of at the commentators are saying.

    Most people will watch the game with the commentators turned off and view the game with just the stadium sound option.

    If you know who the players are then there is no need to hear the nonsense most of them talk.

  9. Anonymous

    November 25, 2007 at 2:44 am

    Hey 11:20 take you and your yank attitude back to American Football or some dumb sport like that. American Football cost England Euro qualifying and American writers don’t understand football even if they try. The world would be a better place if a bomb dropped on the Home Depot Center and we never heard from US Soccer again. Then we could focus on the real game- the English game.

  10. Anonymous

    November 24, 2007 at 11:20 pm


    I wish you were right but I know plenty of Americans who think of them selves as worldly and sophisticated and have no family ties to England, but root for England over the USA because they think it makes them appear more sophisticated as football fans. One of these people I know actually roots AGAINST the USA on a regular basis because he doesn’t want the game to polluted by Americans.

    As for MLS it is our domestic league and if you want the game to be successful here it is going to happen through your domestic league. The domestic league being a punching bag to fill the egos of euro loving left wing hippie types that embrace the game for its international aspects is pathetic. Those people including my friends should move to England if they hate our league and our national team so much.

  11. MJ

    November 24, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    It doesn’t make “business sense” to go after the diehard fan, that’s my point. The diehard fan is going to watch games no matter what channel they’re on and no matter who the announcers are. They’ll be there regardless, they’re hooked. The casual fan is the one all TV stations go after because there are more of them, meaning more money that can be generated from them.

  12. Anonymous

    November 24, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Actually MJ,

    FSC is going after the diehard fan and doing everything they can to keep them. They know that ‘casuals’ only care for one competition and the odd US/Medico friendly.

    To the person who astutely pointed out that why bother adding American commentators over the game when you already have commentary coming from the game, well said. To me it makes no sense for FSC to be using American presenters for commentary unless the feed you bought the rights from doesn’t have the game in English. Just business sense.

  13. MJ

    November 24, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Guys, I’m not saying the game itself needs to be more Americanized. What I’m saying is its coverage here in America needs to be more Americanized because that’s just the point; we’re in America!

    The average American doesn’t like a British guy talking about the game; he identifies more with an American voice and jargon he understands. If you watch games on TV, you’ll notice that a lot of the things announcers talk about are things that the average fan doesn’t understand. As I said, you and I could care less what nationality the commentator is as long as he’s good, but FSC’s target audience isn’t the diehard fan because they already know those people will be watching, their goal is get more casual fans hooked on soccer and their channel. The only way to do that is to Americanize the coverage, and you’re starting to see that to some degree with these pre- and post-match highlight shows.

  14. JC

    November 24, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Let me see if I understand this. Mr. Bell, a guy who doesn’t like most of what’s aired on a particular channel, is complaining about what’s on the channel he doesn’t like to watch, with hopes that the channel he doesn’t like to watch changes to something he does like to watch, instead of just watching something else and regardless of how it affects the people who actually do like to watch the channel.

    What a douche.

  15. Hudsonland

    November 24, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    And as for language … should everyone stop using terms like libero and catennacio because they’re Italian?

    Soccer fans, here and elsewhere, tend to be more cosmopolitan and interested in the world game. Soccer is a universal language that works with Costa Rican waiters and Ukrainian cab drivers. Maybe this just doesn’t fit with a parochial sporting culture where the national championships is usually called the World Series or World Championship.

  16. Hudsonland

    November 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Mr. Murdoch, much as I despise him, is acting rationally (or rather his employees are – I imagine FSC is so small as to not register on his personal radar at all). Why would he throw away recorded commentary that the audience understands, and replace it at additional cost, with an American commentary that would immediately receive a negative reaction from the viewers.

    I spend a fair amount of time keeping an eye on reaction to commentators on message boards etc. and FSC’s crew is generally regarded as abysmal.

    Also, if News Corp thought more people would watch some USL game at 10am on a Saturday morning than an EPL game, they’d be showing the USL game – the rights for which they could probably get for nothing.

    The Gaffer is also correct about FSC’s crew recognising that full-blooded US Americans (thankyou, Miss South Carolina) will feel an affinity to the England team just because they watch all their players every week. Similarly, I’ll be pulling for Spain next year, because I watch (too much) Spanish soccer.

    So, yeah. Bell’s an idiot.

  17. sittingontheterraces

    November 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    thats funny, i was actually just beginning to enjoy jack bell. now i am smacking my forehead.

    its really funny how he draws the correlation between murdoch and fsc broadcasting the epl (oops! sorry, bpl). he’s obviously trying to play to a certain base.

    but does bell realize that the bpl is the #1 (or close #2) league in the WORLD? why wouldnt fsc focus on england? and if they decided to be unsound, they cant devote time to other leagues because:

    a)goltv owns the rights to la liga and bundesliga (and had serie a until this season)
    b)setanta owns the other piece of the bpl and ccc pie.
    c)mls is total rubbish. (sorry, but why would you devote 100% of your resources to a third tier league?)

    and complaining about american announcers adopting british terminology – does he know what lingo and lexicon mean?

  18. Anonymous

    November 24, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Why? Why can’t Fox just be a sports channel dedicated to the many soccer/football/futbol fans in the USA? When it come right down to it, the folks watching Fox on a daily basis, American or expats, do not care if the announcers are English, Spanish, Japanese or American for that matter. No, what we really want is continued coverage of the sport we enjoy if not love. How many years had I spent watching Mexican league futbol in espanol because thats all I had? Then ABC/ESPN with limited major US National team games and eventually MLS games. Now I can sit with my English buddy over at my El Salvadorian neighbors house, with his Mexican and Peruvian buddies and we can catch up on the EPL, Serie A, J-League or MLS. Why, because we love the game anyway it comes to us. It’s part of watching the game. That’s why its a true international game. So the announcer uses the term pitch, or cancha, or gol…who cares. We just want to see a header placed in the back net, a blast from the 18 so explosive all a keeper (oh, I meant a goalie) can do is turn his head and watch it go by, or a moves so sweet it leaves a defensive player standing half crumbled in his stocking feet cause he just got worked. That’s what we want and what we’ve waited for all these years. Yes, any American soccer fan, as well as expats, wants our MLS to suceed. We want our talent to grow, we want to truly compete on the international level. But just because Fox, thanks goodness, had the bright idea of creating this all inclusive soccer channel, why must they be charged with exclusively raising the MLS banner? I don’t just want MLS games, I want all games of this sport I love!

  19. Anonymous

    November 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm


    I’m sorry but this is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t regarding the lingo. It isn’t going to matter what lingo is being used because people are going to slag it off.

    I am not sorry to say this, but why does the world game have to be Americanized. It’s that rationale that gets us slagged off by the rest of the world?

    I am also not sorry to say this, but in all honesty FSC ought to focus more on the game itself, not what country the leagues come from. Yes more American based programming could be put on their network, but let’s be honest it. The more they do the more people are going to cry because the leagues they follow aren’t getting the attention they think they deserve.

    As for the MLS not meriting better coverage, your totally wrong. Just because it isn’t a first tier league as you claim doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get first tier coverage. The fact you wrote that last paragraph the way you did completely nullifies the entire statement you made.

  20. MJ

    November 24, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Is anything that Bell says, in the quotes you italicized, essentially untrue? No, it’s not; everything he wrote is correct. If you want to grow the game, have American announcers using American lingo, at least that’s better than American announcers who fancy themselves to be British with the words they use.

    For you and me, the true soccer fan, we don’t mind the British commentators because we understand the finer points of soccer better than most. But for the average American, the people that FSC is targeting for their audience, FSC’s coverage of the Premier League isn’t good enough. As Bell said, FSC needs to concentrate more on getting away from all things English and making the coverage of the game more American because Americans are the people watching these games.

    Why do you believe that many Americans support the English national team? Just because we speak the same language means nothing. Americans, when it comes to sports and anything international, are extremely patriotic. When the US National Team is playing in a tournament, they want them to win, not England. Americans don’t root for another country; at least not “many” like you claim.

    You’re right about the coverage of MLS, however. MLS doesn’t merit better coverage because the quality of play isn’t as high as that in Europe. MLS is probably a second or third tier league in the worldwide landscape. But then again, it’s what we have in America and it needs to be grown and covered well if we ever want to talk about it like we do the EPL. FSC’s coverage of it is awful and ESPN’s isn’t much better.

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