Why Soccer Sounds Better With British Commentators


It’s been one of those weeks when business meetings got in my way of watching the mid-week Champions League playoff games, so I finally had a chance to sit down Wednesday evening to speed through five or more games that were waiting for me on my DVR player.

Fox’s production aside (I thought they did a spectacular job for the first dip of their toe in the water; small improvements are still needed before the next round), the games for me seemed to have a magical quality about them. I didn’t figure out why that was at first, but it soon suddenly dawned on me. It was the football commentators.

There’s something about a British football commentator that accentuates the game of soccer. When done correctly, the commentary from the mouth of an Englishman, Scot, Welshman or Northern Irishman (or from Eire, for that matter) can sound like poetry, rolling off the tongue and punctuating the game at just the right moments. There’s the tempo. The vocabulary they use. And the pinpoint accuracy they use when saying the right things at the right time.

That’s not to say that every Brit is a decent commentator. Indeed, there are plenty of awful British commentators. But give me a Martin Tyler, a Paul Breen-Turner, Alan Parry, Barry Davies, Mike Ingham or Jon Champion any day of the week.

Fox made the wise decision earlier this year to only use the commentators from the international feed instead of their homegrown talent. It was a brave decision, but the correct one in my opinion. There’s something about a British accent that elevates the importance of a game and takes what is essentially a dress-rehearsal of a Champions League match and turns it into something gripping and wonderful to watch and listen to.

Many Americans have had a fascination about British accents for decades. Pay attention to television next time and you’ll begin to hear how many British accents are used in television commercials, on news channels and in movies, just for starters.

The British accent adds an air of authority, too. The comment I hear often is that Brits could be saying something stupid, but it sounds utterly convincing when it’s said with an English accent.

The crop of Brits doing the international feeds for the different games Fox showed were far from being legendary football commentators. But still, they were a joy to listen to, and were instantly likable. They were also a stark contrast to Fox presenter Jon Herz who stepped in on two of the games to provide temporary commentary until UEFA’s technical issues with the audio of the commentary feed could be sorted. Going from Herz to the British commentators, you could hear how the commentating immediately improved. But it wasn’t just the fact that these commentators had more experience than Herz. The voice makes that much of a difference, even on these occasions.

I have nothing against American commentators. I often praise Phil Schoen from GolTV as the best in the business this side of the pond, but the caliber of commentators in the U.S. is lacking and hopefully new blood will come in to the game.

Lastly, let me leave you with an audio recording of the football commentator Peter Jones and a collection of snippets from some classic FA Cup Final moments. Enjoy.

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