The impending return of the Premier League on June 17 has everyone excited. Even Spurs fans, who have endured a turbulent season, will be lifted by seeing Harry Kane lead the line for the Lillywhites. My big question is whether or not the Premier League as whole can take this moment – this strange moment we all find ourselves marinating in – and use it to capture an even bigger American audience. Sport throughout the world was pretty much changed forever on March 11 when the NBA\’s Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Since then, it seems every league has been racing to return to action in an effort to captivate a large audience of fans waiting for something to see. Here in the U.S., we\’ve seen NASCAR get back on the track (despite multiple unlucky delays due to rain) and we\’ve seen the UFC attempt to get footing. We\’ve also gotten a pair of charity golf matches, the latter of which captured a massive audience (including myself). Part of that had to do with the abyss of a lack of sporting action we find ourselves in. Part of it was the captivating participants with two of the best golfers of all-time paired with two of the best NFL quarterbacks of all-time.
By Andrew Stetka
The Bundesliga has also made its return, playing to empty stadiums and an American audience on FS1. I\’ve never been a huge viewer of German football, but even I\’ve found myself looking at it in recent weeks. I\’ve especially focused on the handful of young American players in the league such as Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent, Tyler Adams, and Zack Steffen. But the league hasn\’t drawn me in like the Premier League does on a weekly basis. Perhaps it\’s a lack of familiarity with the teams or simply that none of them are Spurs.
The Premier League could have an opportunity to grab even more of a stronghold on the American attention span when it returns in a few weeks. The league has already done an incredible job on its footprint in the U.S. in recent years, but a lack of the other major North American sports in action could allow it to get a tighter grip. Part of this advantage is ingrained by the great depth of coverage done by NBC Sports here in the States. This isn\’t going to turn into an NBC love-fest, but the network does a pretty good job covering England\’s top flight, even if it shows heavy bias toward the top teams. That\’s just a simple ratings game.
The NBA and NHL aren\’t likely to resume their seasons before July. MLB is showing more and more signs that there may not be a 2020 season, and even if there is, it won\’t come before July either. The United States is far behind other countries in its response to the pandemic, so international leagues (like in Germany) are going to be able to start holding sporting events sooner. They\’ve even been playing baseball in South Korea for weeks. If American sports can\’t get back to the field, court or ice sooner – or at all (I\’m looking at you, baseball) – then will fans look elsewhere? I don\’t think this will lead to some soccer revolution in America. That\’s something we\’ve been hearing about for at least a quarter century, and it still hasn\’t happened. But there\’s certainly room for at least some short-term gains for English football\’s influence in America. I\’m all for it, because waking up early on a weekend morning and watching Tottenham slog its way to a frustrating draw is just how I live my life. Others are welcome to join me.