Should British Commentators Be Hired on American TV?


On Monday, it was revealed by our sister site EPL Talk that the legendary Martin Tyler of Sky Sports will be joining ESPN for next summer’s World Cup as the lead announcer. While I have nothing personally against Tyler (In fact, I like his style, and have seen him present two matches this weekend, since I am currently in India and here the Sky or TWI feed is given for every live match.), the experiment with Andy Gray in the Euro 2008 tournament leaves me with significant concerns about ESPN’s propensity to hire Sky commentators for international events. Moreover, I am concerned that American commentators are being held to a different standard than British ones by American audiences.

A segment of football fans in the United States have been vocal in attempting to get ESPN to be more British in its presentation style. Many of these “soccer snobs” simply assume anyone with an American accent is unqualified to commentate on football. These fans take their inspiration for the sport almost solely from the British Isles and don’t care for the domestic game, or building domestic talent.

Then, the issue of British commentators from B Sky B and their knowledge level comes into play. Andy Gray in the Euro 2008 tournament showered the American audience with mis-information (not knowing the rules properly on Holland’s controversial first half goal versus Italy, when EPL Talk author Michael James quickly and properly explained it on the website), petty blatant biases (dislike of any player associated with Chelsea FC) and flat out ignorance of some of the bigger sides competing for the title.

Had an American commentator, let’s say Marcelo Balboa, shown such an appalling lack of preparation or knowledge of the Italian or German teams, he would have been roasted on the message boards and by European oriented football fans. But in Gray’s case he was largely given a pass because his accent sounded good, and he must know what he’s talking about because he is Sky’s lead analyst for Premier League matches. Additionally, many who support Gray do not watch other European football leagues beyond the British Isles. So in fact, Gray is simply appealing to their prejudices and comfort levels.

Perhaps Gray can be excused, because the two national teams he is no doubt most familiar with, Scotland and England failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals. But ESPN who took a major hit in 2006 for the perceived poor form of its commentators should have brought in someone who would actually take the time to research the leagues which produced the most players for the Euro finals outside of the British Isles.

I should state that I believe Martin Tyler is a true professional who has often times had to carry Gray on Sky’s Broadcasts. Tyler will do a credible job, which Gray did not do, but why is he being hired to begin with? Considering the United States has more registered footballers in FIFA’s big count than England, as well as two dedicated all football channels, must we rely on Britain for our top commentating talent?

ESPN has had some success with British based commentators at past World Cups. Mike Hill did a credible job during the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Tyler is a knowledgeable and professional presenter, but unlike Hill, he is actually going to be the lead commentator taking the job away from an American who could help present the game in such a way that continues its growth.

Back to my initial point: Why do so many Americans reject American voices for British ones? Why is Christopher Sullivan’s indigenous, knowledgeable, worldly and appealing style rejected for the arrogance and ignorance of Andy Gray? Why is Phil Schoen rejected for Martin Tyler? (For the record, I believe Tyler is a good presenter but my point is, why reject an American for an Englishman on American TV) Why is John Harkes subjected to the sort of psycho babble analysis that no British based commentator faces from our fans?

I must simply assume, that much like Asia, the United States has fans of the beautiful game that have a self defeatism and have bought into the virtues of the English game (note I did not say the International or European game) over their own domestic product. These fans cannot be bothered to support local MLS, USL, NPSL, PCSL or NCAA sides because they are too caught up in English football. They do not watch La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga or Ligue Un either because of either a language barrier or simple lack of interest.

Where I sit currently in Asia, the NFL (India’s domestic league) in India is facing a crisis of support. Why? Because the marketing prowess of the Premier League has over run so much of India’s sporting landscape. In the two weeks since my arrival, zero World Cup qualifiers were on local TV, while this weekend seven Premier League games were shown live. Only a single La Liga, Football League and SPL game were shown, and nothing from any other European league. This of course means, nine of ten live matches this weekend shown in India came from the British Isles.

India, of course has never qualified for a World Cup, and probably never will. Nor will Vietnam, Thailand, or Malaysia, where the story is similar with the Premier League running rough shod over the domestic game, and creating prejudices and biases within the Football supporter’s community. (It is also worth noting that only three Englishman coach national teams currently: India and Thailand employ two of them.)

But we Americans should aspire to be different. We should not be taking our inspiration from third world countries that were recently colonies of European powers. We are a strong football playing nation with a longer streak of consecutive World Cup appearances than England. We have been to a FIFA final in the last year, which is thirty three years more recently than England’s most recent final appearance. But by continuing to perpetuate a self defeating prophecy and an inferiority complex to a nation whose football record is not comparable to that of Italy, Brazil or Germany, we are in fact damaging our own development.

Americans should never be a submissive, subservient people to any foreign power or foreign interest. While football is not society at large or politics, it should not be any different. I am currently reading a compelling book, by two noted British authors (the book has yet to be released and will be the subject of an EPL Talk interview within the next two weeks) that describes the desire of the English to spread the Premier League out of imperial fervor. I cannot say that the authors opened my eyes to this specifically, as I have believed it in the past, but they simply confirmed my view of the situation.

The pity of the whole situation is that I like the Premier League, perhaps more than I like any other football league in the world. But the attitude of so many is that if it is not the Premiership or English, it cannot possibly pass for good football or knowledgeable commentary is flat out insulting. We should strive to do better than this short sighted attitude.

Those brave patriots who took on the Crown at Lexington and Concord would hardly believe that elements within the American nation wanted to return to Anglo domination. Thankfully, the majorities of football fans in the US are of Latin American/Southern European descent and won’t be easily cowed into giving up other football leagues and cultures. Only by fusing together and appreciating all these elements can the US actually develop an indigenous football culture that will rival any other on the planet.


  • If Chivas USA wins the West, Zach Thornton has to be strongly considered for League MVP. With the US goalkeeping situation beyond Tim Howard and Brad Guzan still open, perhaps Thornton can get his first real national team look since the early part of this decade in the upcoming friendlies.
  • I for one am rooting for FC Dallas to make the playoffs. I think the Hoops have played a positive brand of football this second half of the season in what at times has been a difficult MLS season to watch. The revitalization of Jeff Cunningham, one of the league’s all time greats has been a great story as well.
  • Montreal’s victory in the USL First Division final over Vancouver takes us into an offseason which is sure to be filled with fireworks. As I have reported extensively in partnership with Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer, the Team Owners Association, USL, USSF and MLS have had several meetings to try and resolve the impasse. But, I am told unless USL budges from the current structure and delegation of administrative functions, the TOA will be forced to make what is undoubtedly an unpleasant and risky decision. Here’s hoping that events intervene before that decision has to be made. The USL annual meeting begins in Tampa on November 18th, and I would assume any decision would be finalized before then.
25+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, Liga MX, MLS & World Cup
  • Includes ESPN, FOX, Univision, TUDN and more
Favorite Leagues At The Best Price
  • Starting price: $7.99/mo. for Live TV Package
  • Watch Argentine league, Brasileirāo and Copa Libertadores
  • Includes beIN SPORTS, GolTV, TyC Sports and more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, Copa del Rey & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
Live TV, Soccer & Originals
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo.
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & more
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
Get All 3 And Save 30%
  • $13.99/mo. for ESPN+, Disney+ & Hulu
  • Includes Bundesliga, LaLiga, NHL & the home to UFC
  • Features Marvel, Star Wars + shows & movies for your entire family


  1. todd October 20, 2009
  2. jean-guy pepper October 20, 2009
    • Kartik Krishnaiyer October 20, 2009
      • Tim October 20, 2009
    • i don't care June 8, 2012
  3. Simon Burke October 20, 2009
  4. eplnfl October 20, 2009
    • man99utd October 20, 2009
  5. Vague Halfie October 20, 2009
  6. Simon Burke October 20, 2009
  7. YourMom October 20, 2009
    • Berlin October 21, 2009
  8. noahspurs October 20, 2009
  9. Kartik Krishnaiyer October 20, 2009
    • Simon Burke October 20, 2009
      • Kartik Krishnaiyer October 20, 2009
  10. Jeff Ng October 20, 2009
  11. alisonrose October 20, 2009
  12. man99utd October 20, 2009
  13. Roger Dunch October 20, 2009
  14. eplnfl October 20, 2009
  15. Charles October 20, 2009
  16. Charles October 20, 2009
    • man99utd October 20, 2009
  17. kevin_amold October 20, 2009
    • Michael October 20, 2009
      • Michael October 20, 2009
      • kevin_amold October 20, 2009
  18. C Webb October 20, 2009
  19. Vnice October 20, 2009
    • timmyg October 20, 2009
  20. Fan October 20, 2009
  21. Kirk October 20, 2009
  22. Kirk October 20, 2009
  23. Michael October 20, 2009
  24. Lars October 20, 2009
  25. Kartik October 20, 2009
  26. Frank October 20, 2009
  27. Seybold October 20, 2009
  28. Phil McCracken October 20, 2009
  29. Berlin October 21, 2009
  30. Jason October 21, 2009
  31. paulsepp October 21, 2009
  32. Janney October 21, 2009
  33. Kartik= Dot head October 21, 2009
    • man99utd October 21, 2009
    • Berlin October 21, 2009
  34. Daniel Feuerstein October 21, 2009
    • Lars October 21, 2009
  35. Joey Clams October 21, 2009
  36. Joey Clams October 21, 2009
  37. ChivaDeCorazon83 October 21, 2009
  38. Ivan October 21, 2009
  39. Joey Clams October 21, 2009
  40. max October 21, 2009
  41. Ben October 22, 2009
    • The Gaffer October 23, 2009
  42. forweg October 23, 2009
  43. Derek October 23, 2009
  44. Joey Clams October 23, 2009
  45. Chris Husing October 23, 2009
  46. jacko October 31, 2009
  47. jacko October 31, 2009
  48. Mark March 27, 2012

Leave a Reply

Translate »