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Euro 2008: American Experience Lacking without England


From the vantage point of a seasoned football fan Euro 2008 has been great for no other reason than that we can see every match live on TV at home. The Championship has brought us great football and a relief or dare I say a diversion from the unattractive football being played by some managers in MLS and by the US National Team. Euro 2008 has brought us high drama, new stars and some cracking football.

However for the masses of casual football watchers in this country, one national team is synonymous with European and world football: England aka the Three Lions. The Three Lions and English Football represent for many Americans our orientation with the beautiful game outside this continent. Without England, the competition seems incomplete, and worse many among us were stripped of the most natural side to support. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom as well as the special feeling our peoples have for one another makes the first European Championship available on American Television bittersweet. Our nations whose collective efforts have made the world the free and commercially open place it is today has made us in many ways one people with one world view. While differences remain and will always remain, Americans by and large feel a much stronger kinship with the British than any other foreign people.

ESPN’s ratings for the European Championships while not horrible, are far lower than they would have been had England qualified as expected for the finals. American fans in many cases cheer for the Three Lions even above our own national side and find competitive soul mates in the spirit of sport the English demonstrate on the football pitch. The fact that the American side has hardly a player that could compete to find a place on the Three Lions is a fact not lost on many U.S. based fans, as is the lack of identification many Americans have with the nations that are actually competing at the Euro finals. The poor standard of the US National Team has been a motivating factor for many to support England as their first choice international squad. For me this is somewhat distasteful but is a fact of the growth of the game and access to English Premier League matches here in the US. The most popular non-Mexican club sides in the United States are in fact the “big four” Premier League teams, and this makes the identification with England even stronger. While I do not share this identification personally, I respect and understand it. Sadly, ESPN’s ratings thus far for the tournament while respectable have reflected this preference among many in our soccer community.

The European Championship provides arguably much better football than the World Cup: But without England present, many American football fans have casually watched matches or skipped the event entirely. Many who have watched the matches have no side to root for and are thus less emotionally vested in the results. Besides, the most recognizable European players on American soil are by and large English, so American fans are being forced to discover new stars. While this maybe a good thing overall for the growth of the game, more interest and passion would be present were the English involved in the championship.

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  1. Klaus

    June 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    I will have to respectfully disagree with your post. This is America and not everyone’s ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower. While I always pull for the U.S. above all in international tournaments, they do provide myself–and many other Americans–an opportunity to celebrate their ancestry. I was born in Germany to American parents and have Portuguese roots among many others. It has been a joy to watch both (Germany and Portugal) play during Euro 2008. In addition, many of my friends that are casual observers of the sport have made a similar such connection and have followed the tournament even after the elimination of the country that sparked their initial interest.

    In many ways I believe the American connection to English football is mostly tied to the limitations placed upon viewers by television broadcasters. I think this will change as Fox Soccer Channel, Gol TV and the like become more accessible and acquire rights to more and more leagues.

    While not related to the continent, let us not forget the many people who follow leagues through Spanish-language television.

  2. JRT

    June 25, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    England missing the tournament was alright by me.

    Why do assume we all root for them, Kartik.

    Some of us follow them closely to root


  3. Soccer Guru

    June 24, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    The ratings haven’t been great.

    I saw somewhere they are on the low end of what ESPN had promised potential advertisers.

  4. schwerve

    June 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    espn has had amazing ratings for this tournament, I don’t know what you’re talking about. quote from an article regarding the ratings:

    “ESPN2 through the first 15 matches (June 17) averaged a 0.5 rating, 521,000 households and 655,000 viewers. Those numbers represented gains of 67%, 64% and 81%, respectively over the 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.”

    I can’t see how this would be any better with england. if your a soccer fan in the us and go through the trouble of following and rooting for a team an ocean away you can’t possibly believe they’re somehow not going to watch the euros just because their team didn’t make it. if they watch england because its better soccer, they’re going to watch the euro’s cause its better soccer.

  5. Brian

    June 24, 2008 at 8:56 am

    The best thing to happen for Euro 2008 was the Netherlands v. Russia match being televised on ABC, I had coworkers stuble across the game, watched it, enjoyed it.

    Now that Italy is out, I’ll probably pull for Turkey and their never die attitude.

  6. OddsandSods

    June 23, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    There is a fair point there. But, conversely you could argue that it has been better having Russia’s attacking brand of soccer in the tournament.

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