The British are coming! That’s a familiar cry that has been part of American history. In fact, the Brits have always been coming and never really stopped: there were the Pilgrims, the Beatles, then droves of soccer administrators and players, and now here comes Sky Sports.
In an unprecedented move, Major League Soccer (MLS) and Sky Sports announced on Wednesday, Feb. 25, a four-year partnership that will see the British media giant broadcast two regular season live MLS games weekly in the United Kingdom, starting this season, which kicks off on March 8. The agreement also includes broadcasts of the MLS all-star game, the playoffs and MLS Cup.
“As MLS continues to grow into a global brand, we are excited to partner with Sky Sports, a leader in the UK TV market, to bring the sport to millions of soccer fans,” said Gary Stevenson, president and managing director, MLS Business Ventures. “2015 is a milestone year for MLS including new stars, new clubs and a new brand. Sky Sports will help continue to grow the League and clubs worldwide.”
“Football in the U.S. and Canada has enormous potential for growth and we can’t wait to bring this competition to our viewers for the first time,” said Sky Sports Managing Director Barney Francis. “Thierry Henry has joined us, he created fantastic memories in MLS, and we look forward to seeing more of those great stories from across the Atlantic.”
Sky Sports also announced that recently retired MLS star Thierry Henry, who played for the New York Red Bulls the past three years, and David Beckham, formerly of the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy, were named ambassadors in the venture and will add their expertise as analysts during the Sky Sports MLS broadcasts.
“This is another important moment that shows the continued growth of MLS. I have seen first-hand how popular soccer has become in America,” said Beckham. “Having fantastic partners such as Sky Sports on board will not only add to the coverage of the game, it will also broaden its appeal outside of the U.S.”
“I will never forget my time playing in MLS, it gave me some great memories and I was proud to play a role in growing the game,” said Henry, who recently was named a youth coach for the English Premier League club Arsenal, where he spent most of his professional career and is the all-time scoring leader; he played 228 games for Arsenal, a club record, from 1999-2007 and briefly on loan from New York Red Bulls in 2012.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the Red Bulls’ reserve team, Red Bulls II, which will play in the USL, will play some of their games at Columbia University’s Baker Athletic Complex in upper Manhattan. The Red Bulls II will play their first seven games at Red Bull Arena, the home of their parent club. Columbia University facility operations director, Erich Ely, reportedly confirmed the move. “We will be hosting several USL PRO games,” Ely said in a statement to the media.
Another Brit arrived
Owen Coyle, who recently coached Wigan Athletic in the English Championship (English Second Division), has crossed the pond and will coach the MLS Houston Dynamo this season. Coyle, who also coached Burnley Football Club and Bolton FC, seems to have quickly won over the players.
“He’s a very enthusiastic guy and a strong personality. His trainings are great. It makes it a joy to be around the soccer field and club,” said Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark. “He’s always encouraging us to enjoy what we do when we come to practice.”
“I turned down six jobs after I left Wigan, and I just didn’t feel the connection was right when I sat with people. But it felt right when I sat with Chris Canetti [Dynamo president of business operations]. And it didn’t matter to me where it was, whether it was the USA or somewhere else, it had to be the right challenge,” Coyle said about his decision to coach in Houston.” I had to know what the chairman-president was about. I knew what it was about so I knew it was everything I wanted.”
Dominic Kinnear coached Houston the past five seasons but left for the San Jose Earthquakes, where he coached before.