As has been reported around the online soccer world, ESPN has secured the services of announcer Martin Tyler (of EPL and of EA Sports FIFA video game series fame) to call the World Cup for the Worldwide Leader. (No official word as to whether he will be joined by Andy Gray.)
Two things about the move that are somewhat interesting when considered in tandem…
- Tyler won’t be changing his style to be more “American,” which isn’t that surprising. Said Tyler, “I think I’ve been acquired for what I am and not what I might become … I think maybe those who have made the decision about me would like to get, if you like, a more global feel to what is a global game.”
- ESPN is considering having Tyler assigned to all USMNT games.
The hiring is a boon to purists and die-hards, but it will be interesting to see how it will play to those not well-versed in soccer (or to Tyler, “football”) who will tune into games out of some combination of global spectacle, curiosity and patriotism, among other things. Regardless of what a “Tyler call” adds to the game for those who follow soccer, it will make the game less accessible to those who don’t.
From a “soccer in America” perspective, it would be a risk for ESPN to assign Tyler to all USMNT games as an English voice and “global feel” could be a turn-off to the general American public and could ultimately dampen the boost that soccer gets in America every four years via the World Cup. (This is by no means a certainty, but not out of the realm of possibility either.)
On the other hand, as ESPN has staked its claim to English soccer (over American soccer) they may want to use the World Cup to breed more familiarity with an English / European call of the game in an attempt to enhance the profile and likelihood of success for the WWL’s future broadcasts. For as ESPN has shown, soccer coverage, or lack thereof, is purely a business decision.
Here’s a taste of the FA Premier Commentator of the Decade at work. (via The Big Lead)