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ESPN Deserves Praise For Excellent Champions League Coverage

espn-logo.gifSo much focus is put on the Champions League Final and what happened during the game that it’s often easy to overlook the admirable job that ESPN2 did behind the scenes yesterday.

Their production was excellent and what I was most impressed by is that they continued the coverage all the way through until after Man United lifted the trophy. They could have easily cut away and gone to regular programming, but they kept the coverage going. This is definitely a positive sign that soccer carries more weight at ESPN. And it’s also a reassuring sign that the network will provide an exemplary experience this summer for ESPN’s coverage of Euro 2008.

Clarence Seedorf alongside Tommy Smyth and Derek Rae was a smart choice. Smyth was at his worst throughout the match saying inane things when it would have been better to think before he spoke. Rae was the rock that we’ve grown to love and trust. How he wasn’t involved in commentating ESPN’s coverage of World Cup 2006 I don’t know. Seedorf added a lot of great insight from a player’s perspective. It was a shame that he wasn’t there for the full match though.

I usually have a disdain for touchline reporters, but I thought ESPN’s Dave Roberts did a superb job at pitchside. His thoughts and observations were valuable. One perfect example was when he provided insight about the large divots in front of Van der Sar’s goal that were causing the goalkeeper some worries.

Kudos to ESPN for wonderful coverage.

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  1. tampasoccer

    May 23, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Setanta got the coverage from the Sky Sports feed. Martin Tylor, Andy Gray were play-by-play, the pre-game, half-time and post-game were sensational: pure quality. There isn’t really a better crew than Tylor-Gray: just superb.
    That said, ESPN’s coverage was OK: after all, this is America, not England…

  2. Mookie

    May 23, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Smith is so-so, gets calls correct but sometimes speaks a little bit too much.

    Derek Rae is fantastic, one problem with him. Stop saying “Rooney for United” or “Malouda for Chelsea”.


    Oh yeah, and kudos to ESPN, great coverage, no annoying graphics at the top of the screen, I may be able to watch Euro 08 without desperately looking for an online feed.

    Hey guys, it could be worse. We could be in England listening to David Pleat call Frank Lampard, Frank Redknapp.

  3. patrick

    May 23, 2008 at 8:03 am

    They don’t rebroadcast the superbowl, and if they did it would be cut to fit a time slot.

    I understand not everyone can take time off work to watch live, but of all the issues with ESPN we should give them a free pass on the rebroadcast.

    Anybody know what happened to Hemel’s own Andy Houlihan on FSC? He just faded away from the network and is still listed on the site. any info would be great.

  4. Johnathan Staring

    May 23, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Actually Lou, the ESPN2 replay from all I gathered on Wednesday was not scheduled but it was thrown together at the very last second (very similar to the replay for the Istanbul Final).

    That aside, anyone who bitches about cutting time ON A REPLAY is only crying over spilled milk as far as I’m concerned. With TIVO, Slingboxes, and even a good old fashion VCRs (or hell the Setanta Sports replay), there were plenty of opportunities to watch this game live. If you didn’t, sorry but that’s your fault.

    Call me a prick, call me an a-hole quite frankly I don’t care. I’ve been called worst before and I’m sure I will in the future. It was YOUR stupidity you didn’t catch the entire match, not ESPN’s. Get over yourselves.

  5. eplnfl

    May 23, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Dear Tim:

    It was only one of the scheduled replays of the game. A game that was in the books and a known result. What is the normal audience in America for a replay. Try next to nothing. ESPN to their credit was trying to give something to the soccer fan by the first replay. They realized the game was a classic, had great interest and they were trying to promote the sport. A thanks would be in order.

    This very discussion shows the progress the sport has made. 5 years ago we would have been lucky to see it live and replayed once. Some people will continue to knock the production unless it has the initials BBC attached to it. BTW, I heard the numbers for ESPN were great.

  6. Matt

    May 22, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    ESPN was terrible – downright awful – until the final. They cut from play for too long especially to close ups, frame traveling balls in the corners so you cannot see the action ahead, and those f’ing graphics that cover a third of the screen are absurd – especially when they are ads for future coverage.

    I hate soccer on ESPN, but most of the problems above were magically not problems Wednesday.

    Maybe it was my email to ESPN after the semis.

    I can’t stand Tommy – he rarely has a clue what he’s talking about, and stands by his own poor commentary too often, but he wasn’t nearly as disappointing for the final.

    I worry for Euro2008.

  7. m2fc

    May 22, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    i watched the match 3 times. live, delayed (where they cut 30 minutes), and taped.
    ESPN did cut a lot out. i did not like the coverage because they showed replays while the match was live, advertised Euro2008 which blocked out the screen while the match was live, and should have had multiple cameras. the last comment about multiple cameras may be due to the Russian policy.

  8. Tim

    May 22, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    “The people that took time out to knock ESPN for the replays, are the same sort that said the American owners of Man U. will run the team into the ground.” Another dumb comment from someone who doesn’t get it, cutting time out of the game kinda of takes away from the tension and made it obvious it was going to extra time.

  9. eplnfl

    May 22, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I would hope the fine job that ESPN did will ally some of the frightful comments we see when it is suggested that ESPN may be doing EPL matches in the future. As everyone sees from yesterdays presentation ESPN can do a first class job. Sort of like the Glazer family!

    I do not know what the audience numbers but the future of soccer on big time America sports TV will in part depend on how many people tuned in and joined in online. The people that took time out to knock ESPN for the replays, are the same sort that said the American owners of Man U. will run the team into the ground.

  10. Utd fan

    May 22, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I’d say that ESPN did an admirable job. However, there are still things that they could improve on.

    I like Rae a lot, but Smyth is awful – I’ve hated listening to him for years. He reminds me of that guy on GolTV…horrid.

    Seedorf in the booth was nice, but you could tell he was uncomfortable. I wouldn’t mind getting some other footballers into the booth, but don’t keep them there for an extended period of time. 45 minutes was the max, in my opinion

    The scoreboard in the top right should be pushed further into the corner – it’s a tad intrusive (that said, it’s MUCH better than the ‘bar’ that runs along the entire top 1/4 of the screen that they use in other games).

    They’ll never do it, but get rid of the ticker. It used to be a :18/:52 thing that would appear for a few minutes and then leave. Go back to that, at least.

    The feed was excellent. I was watching it in SD and it looked fantastic. I watched the Setanta re-air later and it didn’t even come close. It looked absolute shit compared to the ESPN feed.

    Kudos to ESPN for staying through the trophy presentation. Even Setanta f-ed that type of thing earlier this year when they didn’t show the Munich ceremony before the United-City matchup.

  11. Moose

    May 22, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Guys, although ESPN may be bringing more free HD matches in the future, the play by play is not up to speed in my opinion. I do not know all of their names, but based on the above posts, Rae does the play by play. He is not bad to listen to. The little Irish or Scott, Smith I think, is pure rubbish.

    It might be that I am used to watching EPL games on FSC and Setanta, and the top announcers are the one’s I got used to first. I cannot even watch the weekly preview, and worse the review on Friday mornings due to the obnoxious Smith character. Rae and Shamus do a nice job, but the little leprechaun thinks he is the Jim Rome of soccer. Argues every point, yelling at the others constantly, making very little sense. Sad to say, but I cannot watch the review show due to him.

    Setanta had the replay on last night. Although I watched in live on ESPN2, I tivo’ed Setanta’s replay so I could watch it again with real announcers.

    Just my opinion.


  12. UKian

    May 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I was really impressed with the direction and general presentation of the match. People may be surprised to learn that although the match was played in Moscow, UEFA brought in Sky from the UK to do the broadcast. In the past they have used directors and cameramen from Sky or ITV for CL Final coverage but this time Sky actually took all their own equipment out across Europe in huge lorries, as well as providing 40+ members of staff, I think. It seemed to go without a hitch and the coverage after the whistle and for the trophy was especially good, so all in all it was well done to Sky’s broadcast crew. They were ultimately responsible for the HD success.

  13. kat kid

    May 22, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    the HD was brilliant. Smyth was annoying. Seedorf was nice. the game was fantastic (drama, drama, drama) and the pitch was AWFUL. If you watched in HD you saw how poor the pitch was and I can’t believe that it didn’t take more blame for Terry’s miss.

  14. brent

    May 22, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Well, watch it the first time then? 😛

    Everyone edits replays. If you don’t like it, get a tivo.

  15. Ian Cahir

    May 22, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    The other thing about them being on-site is that’s the only time you have a chance for it to be in HD. They were there (ESPN announced that they were going to be). And they’ll be in Austria-Switzerland for at least PART of Euro 2008. Derek Rae said they would be in the commentators box for the opening match.

  16. Mike

    May 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Kudos indeed to ESPN for its coverage. Seedorf aside, I thought it was a quality broadcast. The pre-game and halftime spots were quality and Rae is a solid play-by-play guy. He’s not smarmy, nor condescending–and yes, they were on-site.

  17. Tim

    May 22, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    “It seems to me like you guys can’t think of anything else to complain about and now are just nitpicking for the sake of complaining. Get over it.” You’re an asshole, missing 30 mins of the second half is hardly nitpicking.

  18. Michael

    May 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Because it showed them inside the stadium before the game when they were previewing the match, and they’ve been on with Clarence Seedorf doing little video interviews all week.

    SamSpur is spot on, they were there in Moscow at the stadium for this one. They call all the games from Bristol up until the semifinals, when they go on-site.

  19. Dan

    May 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

    How do you know when they are there or not?

  20. SamSpur

    May 22, 2008 at 11:27 am

    patrick, you are wrong on this one…they were at the game, not in studio, as they were for the semifinal round as well.

    normally they are in studio though.

  21. patrick

    May 22, 2008 at 11:06 am

    The thing that always annoys me is they pretend to be at the actual ground. They are in a studio in Bristol with a green screen, not Russia, not pitch side.

    The worst was last World Cup where Smyth would comment on the pitch and be totally off, like yesterday, and the rain. They only mentioned it after they saw a close up.

    Am I wrong on this one? I do know that most matches they are in studio, and was getting annoyed when they would go pitch side and there was no picture of said reporter anywhere.

  22. Johnathan Starling

    May 22, 2008 at 10:55 am

    You guys have to be kidding me.

    Their live broadcast was perfectly acceptable. ESPN DID NOT have to replay the game on ESPN2 as they did, all they had to do is replay the game on ESPN Classic as is their custom.

    It seems to me like you guys can’t think of anything else to complain about and now are just nitpicking for the sake of complaining. Get over it.

    Hell ESPN didn’t even have to replay the game on ESPN Classic. You spoiled lot.

  23. Simon Burke

    May 22, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Just heard the same thing from a mate who watched the replay – thats unforgivable – I take back my nice comment above. I dont want them doing anything with th Premier League unless they leave the current stack of commentators in place and just broadcast that.

  24. Tim

    May 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I watched the replay at 7pm EST and could not understand why thy didn’t edit out the pre-game and half time stuff instead of 30 mins of the second half, ruined watching the game for me.

  25. Steel

    May 22, 2008 at 7:37 am

    In spite of ESPN’s largely solid performance, the replay (7-9 p.m. EST, on ESPN2) cut 30 minutes out at the beginning of the second half. Unforgivable!

  26. Simon Burke

    May 22, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Rae was excellent, always is. Tommy wasnt as bad as usual. I didnt like Seedorf – his commentary was a bit obvious and I think it was clear english wasnt his first language and he forgot Maloudas name… that said he went and did the second half in Spanish so he is clearly smarter than the average footballer. I think ESPN did a decent job as well – stayed to the presentations which was nice and the coverage was pretty good.

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