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LISA DILLMAN / ON SOCCER

Fox wins World Cup broadcast rights — worried?

ESPN has the 2014 World Cup, but the following two men's and women's tournaments belong to Fox. Cross-promotions will be one thing, but will the network's pyrotechnics overwhelm the beautiful game?

October 22, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Workers unfurl a giant FIFA flag at the construction site of the Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, where the first game of the 2014 World Cup will be played.
Workers unfurl a giant FIFA flag at the construction site of the Corinthians… (Paulo Whitaker / Reuters )

Wondering if the kids from "Glee" will be out of high school — or at the very least, start shaving — by the time the 2015 Women's World Cup rolls around? Or the 2018 World Cup in Russia?

Think of all the cross-promotional avenues from our friends at Fox, the media company emerging on Friday with the English-language rights to those tournaments, as well as the 2019 Women's World Cup and the 2022 World Cup.

Close your eyes and you can practically hear "Don't Stop Believing" accompanying highlight footage of some gritty yet lovable underdog footballing side. It's really too bad a certain Fox show is not producing new episodes, because "Malcom in the Midfield" would have a nice ring to it.

The not-so-funny side of Fox scares people — in particular, sports fans used to their major events delivered in a certain way. ESPN has handled soccer pitch-perfectly, and the immediate reaction to Friday's news has been a mixture of concern and wariness.

Concern that ESPN will pull away from its soccer mission and wariness that Fox Sports not only loses the plot, but also blows it up in spectacular, pyrotechnic fashion.

Well …

First, it's hard to believe ESPN would abandon soccer coverage in a meaningful and immediate way, especially since it has the rights to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Other properties in its portfolio include the European Championships and fixtures from the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga.

The good news is that Fox now has plenty of time and room to maneuver and secure the services of the marvelous Ian Darke. Or at least four years to work until the Women's World Cup in Canada, or seven long years if Fox has problems getting its act together to cut a deal with the commentator.

The key will be getting knowledgeable and well-spoken insiders on the all-important guest panels. It has been suggested that Fox would bring in heavyweights from Sky Sports, and if anyone has spent an appreciable time in the UK, its coverage of the Premier League is first-rate and restrained.

Some games are likely to be shown on Fox Soccer Channel, and while it is often rough around the edges, that spot is a go-to destination more often than not.

And, well, if Fox Sports hasn't learned its lessons from past broadcasting sins, there will be another option — the Spanish broadcast rights for the same events were won by Telemundo.

After all, the beautiful game translates quite nicely in Spanish.

Field of dreams

You often hear the phrase: It is all about the kids.

And it really is this time.

Manchester City FC combined with the United Arab Emirates Embassy to open a field this month on McDonnell Avenue, a gift to the Boys & Girls Club of East Los Angeles.

The project has been in the works for several months, taking hold when the club visited the area last summer as part of its North American tour.

The meaning of the project fully hit Manchester City's Gary Hopkins when the large crew of Latino workers finally put the finishing touches on the field. No one was rushing to leave the workplace.

"These are guys who have worked on football fields, golf courses, and they said: 'Can we stay? We'd like to play,'" said Hopkins, who is in charge of international development for City.

"I was wearing long pants and dress shoes, and we had a game between ourselves for about an hour and half. Played until it got dark."

Just like the kids will be doing.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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