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How Should Fox Soccer Channel Commentate International Matches?

fox-soccer-channel1.jpgWhat would you do if you were in charge of Fox Soccer Channel’s TV coverage? The dilemma is that you’re trying to establish your own brand and to build an audience with your own personnel, but soccer fans — as you’ll probably agree — are difficult people to please. We always want perfection.

A perfect example is this past Saturday’s England against Kazakhstan World Cup Qualifier that was shown live on Fox Soccer Channel. Hosts Nick Webster and Warren Barton did a fine job in the beginning of the show with expert analysis and discussion. But when the game started, soccer fans were startled to hear that Webster and Barton continued their discussion into the game and didn’t hand over the commentary, as is customary, to the international feed — which would have been Clive Tyldesley and Gary Stevens.

While Webster is a decent analyst, he is no soccer commentator. So instead of commentating the game, it feeled like Webster and Barton were simply talking over the game and providing their analysis. Webster’s style improved later when he began commentating on the game itself, but I always had the feeling that I was missing out on something — that one of the commentators from the international feed would have been able to impart some wisdom that Webster would have missed.

The dilemma for Fox is that GolTV does the same thing but with better results. Few people seem to complain when Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen commentate on the World Cup qualifiers that GolTV broadcast. It’s quite rare that GolTV will broadcast the commentators from the international feed.

So what would you do if you were Fox and you wanted to feature your commentators? Would you have someone like Max Bretos or Christian Miles do the main commentary instead, and have Webster and Barton provide the studio analysis only? Or would you suggest something different? Let us know by clicking the comments link below and sharing your thoughts.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Sithis

    December 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    They should just shut up and watch the match. Let the internationals comment, as is traditional, perhaps a word for word translation for any foreign matches but never taking over and adding new ideas . The FSC (should Be FFC come on yanks call it by it’s proper name’FOOTBALL’. in your “football” you almost never use your sodding foot in the “sport” )should not try to steal the commentary from people who live in the area and may know much more about the fixture than some idiots reading a small summary of a bit of paper.

  2. Dan

    December 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    If the match is presented in english they should stay completely out of it Part of enjoying the match is good commentary and lets be honest Americans just don’t know the match as well as English folk. ( not their fault they just don’t have the same history in football(soccer) and in England. However I would have no problem if they took over for matches where the commentary is presented in a language less spoken by Americans.

  3. Thom Connolly

    August 18, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Max Bretos is no football commentator. Bring on Tommy Smyth and Derek Rae.

  4. dioforce

    November 11, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    FSC got rid of the perfect guy, and now ESPN aren't even using him.

    Allen Hopkins is the man with the European knowledge, without suffering from the banality that plagues Smythe and Rae.

    Hopkins would give a youthful, but professional and very well-informed rendering of European matches.

  5. Dave Griffiths

    October 14, 2008 at 8:53 am

    They are not commentators…and shouldn't have been put in that very uncomfortable position by FSC
    It shows a lack of knowledge on the part of FSC production team
    Gaffer…can you get us some answers from FSC?
    Can you get someone over there to actually talk to you, to address these concerns we have raised?

    I think it would be in everyone's best interests moving forward as I am an overall big fan of FSC, and have been since the 90's and Fox Sports World

    Remember their self promo…
    My World…My Life….My Game
    Now THAT was quality!! FSC seems to have lost that edge a bit
    If we want an american slant on things we can watch MLS…(Imagine how bad Clive and Pleat would be commentating on MLS!!)
    But when it comes to Premier League, let's go with the feed/commentary of people who are there living and breathing it….not two lads in a garden shed with a 5inch black and white tele!

  6. kelly

    October 13, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    It was pretty awful, and more annoying was how they kept saying “we” and “us”

  7. eplnfl

    October 13, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    For the growth of American Soccer and FSC which is it's primary media outlet currently, you would have to encourage and hope FSC can find capable American announces to describe it's presentation. That includes the EPL.!

    Hudson is excellent and no one on the FSC staff is up to his level. I have never been a Bretos basher and Miles has grown while on the job. It would seem to me that with so many American's having played in the EPL and have now finished their playing days you could get one as a FSC expert. A certain keeper who was with Fulham last year would be a good choice.

    What good is it just throwing any game to a English voice to describe the game. Either go with a BBC/Sky production pre/post or go all American. Captain America says go all American!

  8. Dave Griffiths

    October 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    I have a new found respect for Tommy “onion bag” Smith…
    Well…no…not really, but these two made him look good

  9. Simon Burke.

    October 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Fair comment Robbie – it was a loathesome effort – the comentantors chating over the opening minute was dire; my hope is it was genuine technical issues rather than a concerted effort becuase you'd think Webster and Barton would have learned some names, heck they often didnt call who was in possession for England because its not always obvious unless you do it for a living. Shambolic production values, never again I hope.

  10. Robbie

    October 13, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    This was an email I sent to FSC which shows how I and I think many of you felt about the coverage on Saturday with England vs. Kazakhstan.

    Hi FSC,

    Your covergae of the England vs. Kazakhstan match was horrible. The worst I have seen in years. The commentary of Webster and Barton were like listening to two nitwits who pretended to know anything about the game. Just because your English doesn't mean you know everything about football. And Barton, when you said “we” refering to you and England, as a professional commentator you try an remain unbiased in your coverage. You guys couldn't name one player on the Kazakhstan team. Unbelievable! FSC, leave the commentary to the professionals at SKY Sports. Back when FSC was Fox Sports World we got the whole show from SKY. It was wall to wall pre and postgame coverage from the professional studios in London. The poor quality of the FSC studio sound production lowered the original SKY SPORTS feed of crowd noise, so we could not hear any of the Wembley atmosphere (like we can on SETANTA) and to compound that, they could not shut up once and bored us to death with endless monologue. I can't for the love of me understand why you at FSC didn't use the International feed commentators of Clive Tyldesley and Gary Stevens (who would have offered much more intelligent insight into the match). Hey FSC take a page out of Setanta's books and don't be CHEAP! Spill out the cash and give us the whole coverage from Europe. Dont dumb the coverage down for us and dont “Americanize” it. We the public don't want that. If you look at sites such as epltalk and bigsoccer, many supporters share my sentiment. Send Barton back to England, I doubt Sky Sports or any other sports outlet in England would hire him to talk on their shows. Bottom line: Leave it to the professional across the pond.

    Cheers,
    Robbie

  11. Robbie

    October 13, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Hi lads, This was a comment I sent to FSC which shows how I and I think many of you felt about the FSC coverage on Saturday with England vs. Kazakhstan.

    Hi FSC,

    Your covergae of the England vs. Kazakhstan match was horrible. The worst I have seen in years. The commentary of Webster and Barton were like listening to two nitwits who pretended to know anything about the game. Just because your English doesn't mean you know everything about football. And Barton, when you said “we” refering to you and England, as a professional commentator you try an remain unbiased in your coverage. You guys couldn't name one player on the Kazakhstan team. Unbelievable! FSC, leave the commentary to the professionals at SKY Sports. Back when FSC was Fox Sports World we got the whole show from SKY. It was wall to wall pre and postgame coverage from the professional studios in London. The poor quality of the FSC studio sound production lowered the original SKY SPORTS feed of crowd noise, so we could not hear any of the Wembley atmosphere (like we can on SETANTA) and to compound that, they could not shut up once and bored us to death with endless monologue. I can't for the love of me understand why you at FSC didn't use the International feed commentators of Clive Tyldesley and Gary Stevens (who would have offered much more intelligent insight into the match). Hey FSC take a page out of Setanta's books and don't be CHEAP! Spill out the cash and give us the whole coverage from Europe. Dont dumb the coverage down for us and dont “Americanize” it. We the public don't want that. If you look at sites such as epltalk and bigsoccer, many supporters share my sentiment. Send Barton back to England, I doubt Sky Sports or any other sports outlet in England would hire him to talk on their shows. Bottom line: Leave it to the professional across the pond.

    Cheers,
    Robbie

  12. DaveMo

    October 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I was encouraged that FSC chose to broadcast the match at all (rather than just put it up on PPV), so I am loathe to criticize. There were many problems with sound (mics going out – the sounds of paper being shuffled – poor mixing of crowd noise / sound from Wembley), and the commentators were clearly inexperienced. One can hope that all of these things will improve – I still applaud the effort.

  13. Dave Griffiths

    October 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

    It was a shambles…FSC should be embarrassed at itself
    Bretos cannot commentate on European games…he needs the rolling of the tongue on names and the theatrics of the keepers on South American games to match his style.

    Just give us the International feed FSC and quit trying to be more like ESPN

  14. mike

    October 13, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I think the idea is interesting, the execution in this case? Not so good.

    Fox Soccer has the show on Tuesday nights where fans of the respective clubs call the game and I think that's brilliant and for the most part it works as a fun night of television.

    Nick and Barton were OK, but it was odd to listen to. It was almost like there were technical difficulties with the feed and these guys were filling air time. At least ESPN fakes it well with Derek Rae and Tommy Onion Bags.

  15. kkfla737

    October 13, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Bretos isn't anglicized enough to call England games for FSC. The use of “we” ois the way FSC looks at England. Bretos and Sullivan are a dedicated US Soccer/CONCACAF announcing duo, while the rest of the network including all of its on air talent and programming is geared towards ex-pats. Be they true ex-pats or American wanna be ex-pats.

    GOL TV is a much more professional, cosmopolitan and dare I say objective outfit.

  16. TokyoToffee

    October 13, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I just cringed when I read this: (I myself followed the match via a stream with Clive T comming).

    I watched the game in the US on the Fox Soccer Channel, where we were treated to a studio/commentary pairing of Anonymous South-London Host and, at his side, distinguished ex-International Warren Barton.

    I assume the host plies his trade in the States because he's not up to the more exacting standards of the domestic UK broadcasting market – even attempting to assimilate Stevie G into the American scene by re-christening him “G'Rard” – but Warren Barton is surely the most banal, dull and bleedin' obvious pundit who I have ever had the misfortune to listen.

    It left me pining for Tyldesley, Pleat et al, and that's saying something.

  17. NY Gunner

    October 13, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I loveFSC for bringing football to our shores, but I'd rather watch the game on mute thn listen to their commentators.

    I can deal with their pre-game/post-game analysis, but for heavens sake, let the professionals do their job and commentate.

  18. JC

    October 13, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I agree with tyduffty the sound was crap. You couldn't get any feel of the atmostphere. When they get the English commentary whether it's EPL or international the crowd is always nice and loud so you get a much better feel but Saturday the sound was crap it sounded exactly like what it was two guys 6,000 miles away from the game. Surely they can get a louder feed of the sounds from the gorund and then at least that would help a little. The best solution of course is to pay for the Sky or BBC coverage.

  19. tyduffy

    October 13, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I thought the announcing was atrocious. Even the most gung-ho American commentator would never use “we” to refer to a team competing.

    The sound-mixing was bad so it sounded, as though you were listening to them watch something on a distant TV.

  20. MIke

    October 13, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I have never complained about hearing Max Bretos do the commentary. Christian Miles does a good job as well, but there is no one better at FSC to commentate than Bretos. I agree that it was a very uneven job by Nick and Warren, they are much better doing analysis.

    The one thing I will give Nick credit for is that he never felt the need to fill every second with chatter like so many commentators in this country for all sports. Often less is more when it comes to commentary in my opinion. In that vein I thought Nick was great.

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