James Corrigan: Stubbsy a perfect fit for Mickey Mouse football

View From The Sofa: ESPN
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The Independent Culture

It was only a matter of time before Walt Disney signed up Ray Stubbs. Those doleful eyes, that cheeky grin, that bungling manner, that recognition of his own daft-as-a-brushness. Watch out, Mickey – Stubbsy's on your patch.

ESPN's gain is very much the BBC's loss. From this part of the sofa it was the summer's biggest transfer. The successors to Setanta needed a big name to front their Premier League coverage and, goodness me, they do not come much bigger than Bobby George's pal, Raymondo. The viewers know him and he knows the viewers. So it won't seem like an American dealer slimeballing their way into your living room to sell you a fix. Take it away Stubbsy, including our £8-a-month subscription.

Actually, that isn't bad value for 46 live Premier League matches (which to my crude maths equates to roughly £2 each). Of course there is so much more on ESPN than just the Premier League (Serie A, Aussie Rules, something called the Scottish Premier League). But there is the carrot and don't mention the donkeys. Next year ESPN will only boast 23 matches. So they have to grab us where it tingles now.

Otherwise it will be back to Sky, loveable old Sky who will flood our senses with their usual gluttony of over-exposure. The 92 live games of this season will go way beyond the 100-mark next season and, very soon, no day will seem complete without at least 90 minutes of Martin Tyler. Enjoy the duopoly while it lasts.

But then, not everyone has the Sky platform (honest, Rupert) and for those dish-less and digital-less, the tired format of Match of the Day remains. What's left to say about Lineker, Hansen, Lawrenson and – please God, no – Shearer? Well, only that Lee Dixon is now being regarded as the footballing version of McEnroe because of this bunch's outrageous blandness. Nothing against Dixon – bright lad. But would you really cancel a night out at the Toby Carvery to watch his punditry?

Maybe you would and maybe ESPN will poach him at extreme expense. They have the potential to be the Manchester City of the airwaves and this season could very well be the making of both these financial behemoths. Fair enough, Jon Champion might not be Kaka (Gareth Barry, perhaps?) but he is a decent enough commentator. So long as Walt does not allow his network lords to exert too much influence on his British operation, ESPN could establish a genuine foothold in this country.

We can only pray, for instance, they do not decide to introduce the "no-commentator" commentary they will be trialling in tonight's NASCAR race in Michigan. Nobody will be in the booth to say "he's overtaken him" or "he's crashed into him"; just four analysts sitting around a table, giving their opinions as the action unfolds. Probably at the same time. Don't worry, though, we should be safe enough on this score. None of our analysts have opinions.

And to be fair ESPN have grasped the earthy nature of English football. Take their employing of Bernard Hill – AKA Yosser Hughes – to voice their promotional ads. Canny move. "Gizza joblot." Setanta did just that and so it's Murdoch versus the Mouse. Not to mention old gerbil-chops Stubbs.