JOHANNESBURG (AP) — ESPN is keeping broadcaster Martin Tyler for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"We have a deal with Martin for 2014," Jed Drake, the executive producer of ESPN's World Cup coverage, said in an interview at the network's office overlooking Soccer City.
Tyler is regarded as one of the top soccer announcers in Britain, where he broadcasts the Premier League and Champions League for Sky Sports. He is part of ESPN's all-British play-by-play crew for this year's World Cup matches, joined by Adrian Healey, Derek Rae and Ian Darke.
"That was all the talk coming in," Drake said late Tuesday. "Once they got on the air, that's gone away."
Tyler was hired for this year's tournament following criticism of Dave O'Brien, the network's lead announcer during the 2006 World Cup.
Tyler, whose brother-in-law lives in the Detroit area, hasn't overly targeted his broadcasting to the U.S. For him, it's still "football" and not "soccer."
"The question I've been asked the most is, 'Well, what are you going to change for the American audience?' My answer has been the same, which is: 'I've been signed for what I am, not what they want to make me,'" he said. "I hope I am sensitive enough from my time in the States to know there might be a time not to be too colloquial, not to get a bit Cockney."
He doesn't see his job as promoting the sport, which is being watched in record numbers in the U.S. during this year's World Cup.
"I'm not an evangelist. I believe in the game. It's not for me to tell people who don't believe. I'm not trying to change nonbelievers," he said. "I do think there is a fear of football, which is ridiculous. In a country as vast and as wonderful as yours, there is room for so much more sports than you have. ... We think we have over 100 full-time football teams in our country, on our little island, and because you don't have any relegation, you don't have the wherewithal for small towns to come in and become big towns."
The United States' 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana in the second round Sunday was seen by 14.86 million viewers, the most-watched men's World Cup game ever in the U.S. It surpassed even the much-hyped American opener against England, a 1-1 tie seen by 13.1 million viewers on June 12.
Drake thinks U.S. ratings can be sustained over the rest of the knockout phase despite the Americans' elimination.
"We caught a big break in the draw giving us U.S.-England on the second day in the afternoon on ABC. That propelled this," he said. "We're not going to get the extraordinary ratings the U.S. team brought to us, but we're going to get very good numbers."
ESPN constructed the largest set at the International Broadcast Center, perched on scaffolds 25 feet high, with equipment brought in from New York and London. Analysts rotating through it include Juergen Klinsmann, Ruud Gullit, Roberto Martinez, Alexi Lalas and Steve McManaman. The set, with its huge high-definition television, will be dismantled in the three weeks after the final on July 11.