Today, we finish out our rundown of the heroes and goats from the pitch and beyond.
Budweiser 2, Other brewers 2.
Budweiser will be happy to have moved on from Germany, where the official beer sponsor was soundly pounded as spulwasser (that’s dishwater to you) by a populace that takes its beer seriously and didn’t appreciate the lack of local brews at the games. In South Africa it seems to have scored a few more fans and won’t have done its developing world distribution any harm at all.
As you can see from the Nielsen numbers, however, Carlsberg managed to score too with its legends World Cup ad. And Dutch brewer Bavaria stole some headlines too with its 30-women in orange mini-dresses. However, booze is an overall winner during the World Cup, with bars jam-packed even in the avowedly-disinterested United States.
ITV 0, ESPN 2.
No one saw this coming. ITV the leading commercial channel in football’s homeland outplayed not only by the BBC as usual, but also by Disney’s finest. Firstly, ESPN scored by simply buying the rights. This was good for those of us in the States who wanted to watch all the games without subscribing to some random cable network or putting more moolah in Murdoch’s pocket, and good for them because at $100 million those rights were a snip.
The U.S. vs. Ghana game drew 15 million viewers on ESPN and another 4.5 million on Univision which, as the Times pointed out, totals about the same number that Fox averaged over last year’s baseball World Series. Not bad for a sport that many still claim hasn’t ‘caught on’ in the States. And ESPN finally gave us something a little better in terms of commentary than Tommy Smyth (who frequently sounded like he’d never watched the game before, much less heard of the players). Martin Tyler is a bit of an old fart, but he knows the game, while Jurgen Klinsmann and Ruud Gullit brought some almost professorial insight to the studio analysis.
ITV meanwhile had two shockers. It recorded its lowest ever daily rating last Sunday while the BBC was screening the England vs. Germany match. But that was a relatively proud moment compared to the mess it made of England’s opening game against the U.S., when ITV HD accidentally cut away to a Hyundai commercial at the precise moment that England scored their first World Cup goal — it also, of course, turned out to be precisely a third of all English goals in the tournament.
I suppose ad trafficking and serving is a bit like goalkeeping, more likely to get our attention when it goes wrong. Perhaps ITV’s ad ops folks presumably felt a little more sympathy for Robert Green than the rest of us.
Fifa 0, Fifa 0.
Actually, there were a clutch of own goals in this clash, but Fifa disallowed them for imaginary offsides or because they only went a yard or two over the goal line.
Where to start with this report? We could talk about the online ticketing process that made it hard for Africans to experience the Cup on their continent and limited their attendance to just 40,000. We could talk about the mean-spirited and cowardly enforcement of sponsorship rights laws that’s seen small-time local vendors penalized for trying to make a few bucks, while Nike’s been allowed to hang enormous outdoor banners in the host cities.
But probably the most blatant example of Fifa’s ineptitude is the terrible refereeing that’s ruined a number of games at this World Cup and prompted Blatter to apologize to England and Mexico (both of whom were outclassed, but unhelped by travesties of footballing justice). As ruling body for a beautifully simple game, it really shouldn’t be that hard to oversee the refereeing aspect of this sport.
Since 1966 we’ve all known that we needed some kind of laser or video camera to help the referees decide when the ball was, or wasn’t in the goal. Those technologies have now been available for several decades.
So what reason, other than Fifa’s arrogance, could possibly prevent the biggest sport in the world adopting tools used by just about every other sport in the world? And don’t give me that crap about having to have the same rules at every level of the sport, because you know as well as I do that putting a camera on the pitch at the top level isn’t going to change the enjoyment of a bunch of kids in the favela who are using a random spherical (if not as spherical as the Jabulani) object as a ball and bricks for goalposts.
Fifa, raise your game.