Ian Darke on his preparation for the World Cup and how his loan from ESPN to Fox worked
As he looks forward to his World Cup assignment with Fox Sports later this year in Qatar, Ian Darke stresses that he knows full well that John Strong will play the biggest games of the tournament.
“I don’t want to walk into this stepping on anybody’s toes or anything, or being an intruder,” Darke said. “You want to be a good colleague to everyone. Come in and do the work. I completely understand that John Strong is a highly respected #1 commentator. I’m pretty sure he’s going to make the biggest matches – and that’s exactly how it should be.
Last week, Fox Sports announced that Darke would serve as a play-by-play broadcaster during its coverage of the 2022 World Cup. The tournament begins on November 21. Darke will be on a short-term loan from ESPN, who must have greenlit the opportunity given that Darke is under contract with them. This will be Darke’s eighth World Cup as an announcer. He worked for ABC and ESPN during the Men’s World Cups in 1994, 2010 and 2014 and the Women’s World Cup in 2011. Four years ago he called the 2018 World Cup in Russia for broadcast services host for the global stream. Darke’s first World Cup assignment was in 1982 for BBC Radio. He even worked for Australian television (SBS) in 1998.
“Things have changed a lot because of COVID and my ability to travel to the United States,” said Darke, who is based in Surrey, England. “And ESPN now has Jon Champion living in the United States as one of its main men when it comes to football commentary. So that led to, ‘Would it be possible for me, if I got the offer, to go and work the World Cup for Fox?’ I think the word got around that was the situation. Conversations took place and an offer arrived. I love the World Cup, and I think any football commentator would be lying to you if they said they didn’t want to do the World Cup, regardless of the controversial venue. Willingly or by force, I managed to get myself assigned.
Darke said he doesn’t know which games he’ll be calling yet, but it should happen over the next few weeks.
“It’s good to have a fair outcome because then you can start paying a little more attention to these teams as they play their various warm-up games leading up to the World Cup itself,” said said Darke. “It’s always handy to know as a commentator because it’s quite difficult to have comprehensive notes on all 32 teams.”
Darke on loan from ESPN is something that really benefits viewers. We’re seeing more and more sports talent working for multiple outlets these days – and that’s smart for all parties. In this case, Fox Sports gets a world-class play caller and ESPN gets its talent on property it doesn’t own.
“I’m not just a diplomat here, well, I guess I am a bit, but you know everything had to be approved by ESPN,” Darke said. “This conversation took place and they are fine with it. I’m still under contract with ESPN. I’ve been part of the ESPN family, so to speak, for over a decade now, and I hope that can continue.
Darke was called up for the European Women’s Football Championships for ESPN this month, a tournament which has caused quite a stir in the UK given England’s success. The semi-finals between England and Sweden averaged 7.6 million viewers on the BBC and peaked at 9.3 million viewers.
“To put it into context, the numbers watching that match you mentioned were bigger than the men’s singles final at Wimbledon on UK TV,” Darke said. “It’s the front cover of every national newspaper this side of the Atlantic. This is unheard of. Inside there are articles about the players and they haven’t become high profile celebrities, but everyone is starting to know all of their names. I don’t know if it continues but at the moment there is almost a kind of football fever around this team.
If you want to hear the audio version of my interview with Darke, he was one of three guests on the next episode of the Sports Media Podcast. The episode comes out on Monday and can be found here. Darke is part of a podcast with Roberto Andrade Franco, feature writer for ESPN and author of one of the best sports writing articles in 2022. Franco recently wrote “The All-Star Dreams of Jose’s Biggest Fan Altuve d’Uvalde,” an article for ESPN about the life of Tess Marie Mata, one of 19 students killed in the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Franco is followed by Julie Kliegman, writer and copy editor for Sports Illustrated. She recently wrote about Sarah Fuller’s journey from kicker for Vanderbilt to mental health advocate and is working on a book about how athletes deal with mental health.
The NFL and SiriusXM announced this week a five-year extension to their broadcast and marketing agreement. The two have been partners since 2004. Under the terms of this new agreement, SiriusXM becomes the exclusive third-party audio provider for all NFL games in North America. For more details, here is the press release.
Additionally, SiriusXM and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced a new agreement that will make live streams of NWSL matches available to SiriusXM subscribers on the SiriusXM FC channel and the SXM app. SiriusXM will also broadcast the NWSL Championship Game on October 29.
ESPN said it averaged 2.21 million viewers for the Mets-Yankees game on Wednesday night. Excluding the opening night and tiebreaker games, the game was the most-watched MLB regular-season weeknight on ESPN in 15 years, dating back to September 14, 2007 (Yankees -Red Sox). Under its new media rights deal with MLB, ESPN has an annual allotment of five exclusive national games in addition to its 25 Sunday Night Baseball games and full exclusivity to the new MLB Wildcard Series. .
In case you missed it: I asked six of our NFL reporters – Greg Auman (Buccaneers), Joe Buscaglia (Bills), Michael-Shawn Dugar (Seahawks), Zak Keefer (Colts), Tashan Reed (Raiders), Jourdan Rodrigue (Rams) — to answer some questions about NFL training camp coverage. Here is the piece.
My colleague Bill Shea had an NFL+ FAQ.
Sports Media Podcast Episode 225 Featured Athleticism writers Katie Strang, Dan Robson and Ian Mendes. The three co-authors of a recent article on sexual assault allegations and a report for Hockey Canada. In this podcast, Strang, Robson and Mendes discuss how the stories came together for the article and the steps journalists are taking to report on this topic; what we know and don’t know about the two incidents of sexual assault; whether adults allowed creeping culture; what happens when you contact lawyers representing players; the impact and importance of the voice of the sponsors; Halifax police have opened an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Hockey Canada’s 2003 National Junior Team; hearings before the Parliament of Canada; what will happen to Hockey Canada in the future, and more.
You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.
(Photo of Darke during a 2015 English Premier League broadcast: Michael Regan/Getty Images)