One of the big questions in the Premier League's move to NBC is what happens with popular play by play man Ian Darke. Since the 2010 World Cup, Darke has rocketed from a cult figure to genuinely one of the most admired announcers in the country thanks to his weekly presence on EPL telecasts and his work covering the USA National Teams.
But now that ESPN has lost the EPL to NBC and the peacock has named their own broadacsting teams, American viewers are about to see much less of Ian Darke. He announced on his Twitter page today that he's joining startup BT Sport in the UK, who just acquired a package of 38 games a year. The good news is that Darke will still be around to call USMNT matches:
At superb launch today of BT Sport who I am joining to cover Premier League and other games next season in UK.— Ian Darke (@IanDarkeESPN) May 9, 2013
Just to add I will still be covering USA matches on Espn in America.— Ian Darke (@IanDarkeESPN) May 9, 2013
It's something of a sad day though, really. Darke and McManaman were one of my favorite announcing teams calling weekly EPL games on-site from England. Now both are gone from full-time ESPN duty as McManaman will also join BT. It's fair to say that Darke has had as great of an impact on his particular sport and fanbase than any other announcer in the last several years. It's impossible to quantify just how many fans have seen their appreciation of soccer grow since Darke's call of Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria or Abby Wambach's goal against Brazil or his weekly ESPN duties. It is fair to say that ESPN's soccer coverage and the future of soccer coverage in this country wouldn't quite be as bright without his inspired commentary.
UPDATE: Thankfully, Darke confirmed yesterday on Grantland's Men in Blazers podcast (interview starts 43 minutes in) that he will announce the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup for ESPN. (h/t @mookiealexander)