We’re only one week into the 2018 World Cup and Fox is already making changes to its studio coverage. Lothar Matthäus is out. The record holder for most World Cup appearances by a player was positioned as the network’s lead analyst in the first press release regarding tournament coverage. Former Dutch national team midfielder Clarence Seedorf will join the Fox Studio team in Red Square.
Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeted that the shakeup was not expected and not well received by either Matthäus or the network.
The split did not end well, I hear. Given the timing, it goes without saying, I guess.
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) June 20, 2018
Irish National Team Manager Martin O’Neill will also join Fox’s coverage. He is already in Russia, and has been covering the World Cup for Britain’s ITV.
The motivation for the changes is unknown, but as Andrew Bucholtz from Awful Announcing writes, the network has no shortage of reasons for it.
But maybe Fox is listening to the reviews, or concerned about how they keep being outdrawn by Spanish-language coverage on Telemundo and how they have to average “the last four World Cups combined” to create any sort of positive ratings spin. (Four is an important number there, as the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea took place largely in the middle of the night in North America, a significant change from Germany in 2006, South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014; soccer also was arguably at a lower North American profile overall back in 2002.) Or maybe this is about internal feedback from their producers and executives about what is and isn’t working.