LONDON — This week, our UK operation helped celebrate the start of this season’s FA Cup — the world’s oldest and most coveted domestic soccer cup competition — with a special match at Wembley, the venue for the England national soccer team.
ESPN, which airs the competition in the UK and Ireland, hosted a special 11-a-side soccer match for the full 90 minutes on the world famous Wembley pitch involving viewers, fans, industry journalists and key company partners. They can lay claim to being among a very small group of people to have played on the famous Wembley pitch.
Each team was managed by members of ESPN’s UK soccer talent team: Kevin Keegan (the ex-England soccer team manager) led Team Keegan; John Barnes (one of the most revered England soccer players of all time) and Ray Stubbs, ESPN UK’s lead soccer presenter, led Team Barnes/Stubbs. Competing on each side were ESPN soccer talent (Ray Stubbs, Kevin Keegan, Chris Waddle and Martin Keown), plus a number of specially-invited FA Cup legends.
Team Keegan prevailed, 2-1.
After the match, the teams were able to see the FA Cup trophy itself, walk up to the famous Royal Box where the winners of the actual tournament in May 2012 will receive the famous trophy. The sides got to spend time with ESPN’s soccer talent as well as the legends themselves.
Ross Hair, Managing Director, ESPN, Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “The FA Cup is one of the biggest tournaments in the sporting calendar and has a special place in the hearts of football fans everywhere. Our first year of broadcasting the FA Cup last season produced some great matches, remarkable stories and amazing upsets. ESPN is looking forward to bringing fans all the action this season. Our presentation of the FA Cup will continue to take the same innovative approach we took last season, an approach that focused on bringing fans closer to the stories around the game and closer to the game itself.”
Keegan said: “It’s a massive day for these guys to come and play at Wembley and to have the chance to play with the likes of (ex-Arsenal legends) Robert Pires and Martin Keown is unbelievable. They’re all just big kids at heart’
Barnes said: ‘You can see how much playing in this fantastic setting means to the guys, they played with enthusiasm and its great to see that. I know they are all of a certain age and fitness, but it just shows how much football (soccer) means to everyone.’