As he looks forward to his World Cup assignment with Fox Sports in Qatar later this year, Ian Dark insists he is well aware that John Strong will play the biggest games of the tournament.
“I don’t want to go out there walking on someone’s toes or anything like that, or be an interloper,” Darke said. “You want to be a good ally to everyone. Get in and do the work. I totally understand that John Strong is a highly respected No. 1 commentator. I’m pretty sure he’s going to play the biggest — and That’s exactly how it should be.”
Last week, Fox Sports announced that Darke would serve as a play-by-play broadcaster during coverage of the 2022 World Cup. The tournament will start from November 21. Darke would be on a short-term loan from ESPN, which was supposed to beat the opportunity given under the contract with Darke. This will be Dark’s eighth World Cup as an announcer. She worked for ABC and ESPN during the Men’s World Cup in 1994, 2010 and 2014 and the Women’s World Cup in 2011. Four years ago, they called the 2018 World Cup in Russia to host broadcast services for a worldwide feed. Darke’s first World Cup assignment was for BBC Radio in 1982. He also did a stint for Australian Television (SBS) in 1998.
“Things have changed a lot because of COVID and my ability in the United States,” said Darke, who lives in Surrey, England. “And ESPN now has John Champion living in the United States, when it comes to soccer commentary. So because of, like, ‘Would it be possible for me, if I got an offer, for Fox at the World Cup? To go and work?’ I guess word got around, that was the situation. There was talk and an offer was about to come. I love the World Cup, and I think any football commentator would lie to you if they said they were a controversial site I don’t want to do the World Cup regardless of hook or crook, I’ve managed to get the job done.”
Darke said he doesn’t yet know the games he’ll be calling it, but it should come in the next few weeks.
“It’s good to know the fair way because then you can start paying a little more attention to those teams as they play their various preparatory games between now and the World Cup,” Darke said. “It’s always easier to know as a commentator because it’s very difficult to have exhaustive notes on all 32 teams.”
Darke is being loaned by ESPN which actually benefits the audience. We’re seeing more sports talent working for multiple outlets these days—and that’s all party smart. In this case, Fox Sports gets a world-class game-collar and ESPN gets its talent on an asset it doesn’t have.
“I’m not just being diplomatic here, well, I guess I’m a little bit, but you know it all had to be fixed by ESPN,” Dark said. “That conversation happened and they’re good with it. I’m still under contract with ESPN. I’ve been a part of the ESPN family, as it has been for over a decade now, and I hope it continues.”
Darke has been on call for ESPN this month for the Women’s Soccer European Championships, a tournament that has been a sensation given England’s success in the UK. The semi-final between England and Sweden averaged 7.6 million viewers on the BBC and reached 9.3 million viewers.
“For you to put it in context, the game you mentioned was bigger than the men’s singles final at Wimbledon on British TV,” Darke said. “It’s the back page lead story in all the national newspapers on this side of the Atlantic. It’s unheard of. The inside features about the players and they haven’t become A-list celebrities, but everyone seems to know all their names. I don’t know if this will continue or not, but at the moment, there is a kind of football fever with this team.”
If you’re interested in hearing an 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 Monday and can be found here. Darke is part of a podcast with Roberto Andrade Franco, a features writer for ESPN and the author of one of the best pieces of sports writing in 2022. Franco recently wrote a piece called “The All-Star Dreams of Uvalde’s Biggest Jose Altuve Fan”. For ESPN on 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 Sports Illustrated writer and copy chief Julie Kligman. She recently wrote an article for Vanderbilt on Sarah Fuller’s journey from kicker to mental health advocate and is working on a book about how athletes navigate mental health.
The NFL and SiriusXM this week announced a five-year extension of 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 of each NFL game throughout North America. For more details, here is the release.
Additionally, SiriusXM and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced a new agreement that will provide live broadcasts of NWSL matches for SiriusXM subscribers on the SiriusXM FC Channel and the SXM app. SiriusXM will also broadcast the NWSL Championship Game on October 29.
ESPN said Wednesday night had an average of 2.21 million viewers for a Mets-Yankees game. Excluding the opening night and tiebreaker games, this game was the most-watched regular-season MLB Weeknight broadcast on ESPN in the past 15 years, prior to September 14, 2007 (Yankees-Red Sox). As part of its new media rights deal with MLB, ESPN has an annual allocation of five special, national games in addition to full exclusivity of its 25 Sunday Night Baseball games and the new MLB wild-card series.
In case you missed it: I asked six of our NFL correspondents — Greg Auman (Buccaneers), Joe Buscaglia (Bills), Michael-Shawn Duggar (Seahawks), Zak Kiefer (Colts), Tashan Reid (Raiders), Jourdan Rodrigue (Bills). Rams) – To answer a few questions on coverage of NFL training camp. Here is the piece.
My colleague Bill Shea had a FAQ on NFL+.
Featured episode 225 of the Sports Media Podcast athletic Authors Katie Strang, Dan Robson and Ian Mendes. The trio recently co-authored an article on sexual assault allegations and reckoning for Hockey Canada. In this podcast, Strang, Robson and Mendes discuss how reporting came together and the steps reporters take to report on the topic; What we know and don’t know about the two sex-assault incidents; whether adults enabled a broader culture; What happens when you contact lawyers representing the players; the impact and importance of sponsors speaking; Police in Halifax are opening an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Hockey Canada’s 2003 national junior team; hearing before the Parliament of Canada; What’s next for Hockey Canada, and more.
You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and more.
(Photo of Darke during an English Premier League broadcast in 2015: Michael Regan/Getty Images)