There may be a lot of upset soccer fans on March 1, 2010 when Fox Soccer Plus is launched and the network isn’t available on all satellite and cable TV providers.

During the most crucial phase of the Premier League season, the run-in from March through early May when titles are won and lost and the relegation battle takes plenty of twists and turns, it’s imperative that as many Premier League games are on television as possible. With the demise of Setanta Sports at the end of February, all of the Premier League TV rights in the United States (except for the two games per week on ESPN2) will return to Fox. The majority of them will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel but many of the other crucial games will be shown on Fox Soccer Plus.

The problem is that there’s no guarantee that all cable and satellite providers will have Fox Soccer Plus on March 1.

The same frustration that many soccer fans have been experiencing since last month when Fox Soccer Channel has been touting “Fox Soccer Channel Now available in HD” (when it wasn’t, but is now but only on DISH Network) is going to seem like nothing compared to the Fox Soccer Plus chaos.

Everywhere you look, whether it’s on Fox Soccer Channel itself during games or commercials, or on the website or elsewhere, Fox’s promotion boasts “Fox Soccer Plus, Coming March 1” but the reality is that it’s extremely doubtful that the majority of providers will have it available then. In fact, it’s entirely likely that it could take some cable and satellite providers months before Fox Soccer Plus is available. That’s because Fox will be negotiating deals with each satellite and cable TV provider separately. And while we would love to think that businessmen have the best interests of soccer fans, the reality is that business is business. And negotiations can sometimes drag on and on.

Fox Soccer Channel is walking a dangerous tightrope again by raising the expectations of soccer fans to expect to see Fox Soccer Plus on March 1. At the same time, Fox is not communicating with its viewers to prepare them for the possibility that FSC+ may not be available for quite some time (for many of us). Plus, Fox Soccer Channel – yet again – is doing an extremely poor job at telling us what we need to do as soccer fans to influence the satellite and cable providers so we can add pressure to them to carry the station.

Fox Soccer Plus’s ChannelFinder tool and its one page of information is simply not enough. If Fox wants us to contact our cable and satellite providers, then there are no details about that on its website. Are you we supposed to just sit back and wait for a deal to happen? Wouldn’t Fox want us to apply pressure to the TV providers and use that as leverage during its negotiations? If so, they’re doing a lousy job.

Worst case scenario, many of us in the United States may not be able to watch many of the crucial Premier League games between now and the end of the season that will be on Fox Soccer Plus. And, after February 28, with the demise of Setanta US, Setanta-i not making Premier League games available online anymore, and still in the dark ages by not making games available until 36 hours after they are played, what are soccer fans supposed to do? Sadly the only option for many of them will be to watch the games illegally online.

The shame regarding Fox Soccer Plus is that Fox is leaving soccer fans in the dark. By not effectively communicating with its core audience, soccer fans yet again have to scour sites like this one and BigSoccer to find the latest news and developments. For example, what will happen when Setanta US goes dark at the end of this month. Will Fox Soccer Plus immediately replace Setanta on that channel on providers such as DirecTV and DISH Network? Right now, the answer is unknown because the negotiations continue. It’s entirely likely that the station will go black.

For soccer fans, every day counts. Every day when Fox Soccer Plus is not available will seem like a lifetime for hardcore fans. When Fox flicks the switch and launches Fox Soccer Plus on March 1, there’s a possibility that no carriers will be showing it. And because there are so many Premier League games on television each weekend, as well as other leagues, Fox Soccer Channel has no way to show all of the games.

Looking at the Premier League schedule, here are some of the crucial games that could be missed by soccer fans who won’t have Fox Soccer Plus:

  • Manchester United v Fulham, Sunday, March 14, 8:30am ET
  • Manchester United v Liverpool, Sunday, March 21, 8:30am ET
  • Burnley v Blackburn, Sunday, March 28, 7am ET
  • And many others.

From Fox’s perspective, they probably don’t want to say much if anything at this time especially when they’re in negotiations with the different carriers. But loyal Fox Soccer Channel subscribers deserve to be treated better and there are so many unanswered questions. What will happen to the online Premier League rights that Setanta US were showing on Setanta-i? What leagues will be shown by Fox Soccer Plus? Which Premier League timeslots will be shown on Fox Soccer Plus? Will Fox Soccer Plus be available as a paid subscription of $14.95 per month? The list goes on and on.

There are only 16 days between now and the launch of Fox Soccer Plus but there are so many unknowns and so little information. Behind the scenes, EPL Talk will try to get as much information to you as soon as we find out the details. But until then, it looks like we need to exercise some patience and trust that Fox will secure the deals with the TV providers as quickly as possible to ensure that Fox Soccer Plus is available for soccer fans nationwide.