Sometimes the real historical significance is lost in the moment. The most important thing about the Arsenal – Manchester United game on Sunday was not related to it’s result, or the superb debut of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but that it was the first free-to-air-major-network broadcast of Premier League football (sorry, soccer) in the US.
How ironic: the Americans get for free what we in Europe are expected to pay top-Dollar, or top-Pound or top Euro, for.
About a decade ago I spoke to a decision maker from a major American network and asked him why soccer has not become a major American sport. After all, the size of the Latino and ex-European population is similar to a large European nation. And soccer is a hugely popular at youth level in the United States.
His answer surprised me. It was nothing about “American mentality” or cultural differences or the history of the game in the US. The networks are well aware that soccer has been a huge American sport since the 1920′s.
As can be seen in this photo:
“The networks have invested billions in making American football (NFL and college), baseball and basketball into huge industries. Why should we give exposure to a serious competitor, in a game we do not dominate?”, he explained.
He added that creating a top-level league in America is possible, but would require enormous resources and the investment just doesn’t make sense. So they were simply protecting their investment against a dangerous competitor. They were not avoiding soccer for it’s lack of popularity – but out of fear of its popularity.
Well, this was 10 years ago. Something has obviously changed. Maybe the changing demographics of the United States. Possibly the understanding that network TV will soon be a thing of the past. There is no point anymore in this Soccer Embargo.