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ESPN Fail To Perfect Champions League TV Coverage


With ESPN on Tuesday, I didn’t know whether to kiss them on the cheek or kick them in the balls.

The Disney owned network only had since December 19, when the knockout round draw was originally announced, to figure out which second leg matches would be shown on which ESPN channels. However, the mass confusion caused by the channel with last minute TV schedule changes was unacceptable.

ESPN’s saving grace was that they moved Liverpool against Real Madrid to ESPN, their flagship network. It’ll be intriguing to see what the TV ratings are for this match. If there was ever a time to attract new fans to the sport and get them hooked, this was it. It’s just a shame that the TV schedules weren’t firmed up several weeks ago. Otherwise there could have been a lot more promotion and word of mouth to increase the ratings.

On to the match itself, I was flabbergasted that Adrian Healey and Robbie Mustoe were chosen to be the commentating duo while Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth were relegated to the Juventus against Chelsea match. If I had to guess, the assignments were made a while ago before the TV schedule changes and the big match ESPN was going to be showing was scheduled to be Juventus against Chelsea. However, even after the last minute changes, I believe ESPN dropped the ball by not putting Rae and Smyth on the bigger match of the two, no matter how much planning and research the ESPN dream team had done.

Mustoe has to be criticized for doing a poor job as a co-commentator. Too passive. On the first two goals, there was little to no tactical analysis of whether the goal was offside and whether Torres pulled Pepe down (he didn’t, in my opinion). And even on the second goal, there was little to no analysis of whether it should have been a handball or not.

We need more of an opinionated co-commentator who is willing to call it as he sees it, instead of slipping into the background. If ever there were opportunities for a co-commentator to grab the game by its balls and for Mustoe to establish himself as a quality commentator, this was it. He failed.

Love him or hate him, Smyth would have forcefully shared his opinion on these first two goals.

In comparison, when Chelsea had a free kick near the end of the first half against Juventus and the ball appeared to go over the line, Tommy Smyth called it and said it looked like it may have been a goal. He also called the Juliano Belletti handball and didn’t sit on the fence on that one either.

And why oh why would ESPN again choose Mustoe for the Liverpool game when Mustoe is a self-confessed Liverpool supporter who admitted during the match that he has supported the club ever since he was a child?

Lastly, while this isn’t ESPN’s fault, why in a stadium of 42,550 do the TV cameras show the same five people in the shots of the crowd during the entire game? After a while, I was pretty sick of seeing that same woman in the front row.

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  1. Loving the Logo

    May 14, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Loving the logo

  2. David

    August 14, 2009 at 5:46 am

    ESPN’S baseball coverage is dreadful!

  3. David

    August 14, 2009 at 5:45 am

    I have never watched a CL game on ESPN – let’s hope that it’s not as their baseball coverage, where you only see about 30 seconds of action!

  4. Hector

    April 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Why does it seems that ESPN shows at least one girls college basketball game at any point in the day?
    Does anybody watch it?
    Could it possibly get better ratings than a Champions League Match?

    And why aren’t they showing Arsenal-Villareal..

    Espn360 is great in the choices it offers, but I do wish it supported linux. It took me about an hour to write a workaround to get it working on Ubuntu…

    And comcast is stupid for not having ESPN360, comcast is a failing business and will get run over by ATT if they don’t get with the program…

  5. Hector

    April 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I also mute the TV if Tommy Smyth is doing commentary. He is absolutely unwatchable/unlistenable…

    Gol TV’s commentators are way better than ESPN’s. Alexi Lalas is an idiot and says stupid thing all the time, for example when he said that Tim Howard was the best keeper in the world.

    ESPN should fire their entire soccer commentary staff and hire GolTV’s, I’d bet the GolTV guys get paid less too.

  6. Footballer

    March 13, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Don’t blame ESPN for showing the WBC. That’s America’s pastime. Plus it features team USA.

    Alot of people on this board do a disservice to football. I thought this was EPLtalk, not “Americans disrespecting the game of football through their buffoonery”. Granted, not all of you here, just the majority.

  7. Kartik

    March 12, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Very true…………..just sign up for a 360 password. I am away on business this week and have a remote password through which I have accessed all of the Champions League matches as well as College Basketball. It’s free to sign up, but you must sign up from an AT&T area to use it when you travel.

  8. eplnfl

    March 12, 2009 at 8:26 am


    Same for me with Comcast at home. I have AT& T at the office but you can access 360 via your cell account. So, if you have a cell phone with AT&T you can obtain a password to access it at home. Several other cell phone carriers also provide an ability to obtain a password for it! It came as a nice surprise to me a few weeks ago. Hope it works for you and others.

    TT: Old age makes figuring out the match start time difficult when you’ve pushed your clocks ahead 3 weeks before Europe does thanks to another great idea by the past administration. You have to love the “Old Onion Bag” it’s almost St. Pat’s day. A bit hard on Japanese commentary BTW.

  9. TT

    March 12, 2009 at 8:15 am

    “Pause it, stop it, have dinner, talk on the phone see the match in it’s full glory without need to worry that you set the timer to cover it all. ” – is it really that hard to set a timer for a vid/DVR machine?

    I’d mute the sound if Tommy were covering a game. Almost as bad as Japanese chimpentary.

  10. The Gaffer

    March 12, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Don’t get me started on that one Lou! ; ) ESPN 360 isn’t available to a lot of people out there, myself included. Each ISP has to do a deal with ESPN. In my case, it isn’t available because I’m on Comcast Cable. Comcast currently has 24.6 million customers in the United States that are in the same boat as me.

    The Gaffer

  11. eplnfl

    March 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Love Tommy and Derek. Lets give ESPN a big thumbs up for ESPN 360. It is now becoming widely available free of charge and it makes the CL hassle free. No new to set your DVR before heading to work. Go to you laptop and pull it up live at work on see it for the first time when you get home. Pause it, stop it, have dinner, talk on the phone see the match in it’s full glory without need to worry that you set the timer to cover it all.

    Lets thank ESPN!

  12. Bryan

    March 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I got the games in HD.

  13. RaiderRich2001

    March 11, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Part of the confusion is stemming from the fact that ESPN has some “fixture congestion” of it’s own. They’re having to schedule these matches around their World Baseball Classic coverage.

  14. Panda

    March 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I was more pissed that Setanta blacked out the coverage of Chelsea/Juventus…MIDWAY THROUGH THE FIRST HALF!

  15. Hank

    March 11, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I don’t know – having watched ESPN’s USMT coverage – I think we should just be thankful John Harkes wasn’t doing color.

  16. Simon Burke

    March 11, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I agree with Nick, seeing Andy give Tommy a lesson in punditry this past Summer was brilliant. I dont mind Tommy though, he’s irritating for sure but somehow I have gotten used to him over the last 12 years.

    Daft question? Has anyone gotten these games in High Def? The first leg I taped the Chelsea and United games on ESPN2 HD and ofund a huge ESPN banner either side of the picture which was really annoying. I can only assume that wasnt high def? I have Fios. Anyone else?

  17. nick

    March 11, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Cant agree with you here. Tommy Smyth is without doubt the worst commentator on television,talks utter nonsense all the time. I can still see Andy Grays face during the Euros when he in the studio with this clown,his face had ‘how does this berk get a job’ all over it

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