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“La Liga club FC Barcelona is arguably the best team in the world,” winning over the last four years 14 out of a possible 19 trophies, which has “never been done before,” according to CBS’ Bob Simon on a segment of Sunday's 60 Minutes. Many experts refer to the club’s youth academy for its success, La Masia, “which recruits boys, often no more than 7-years-old, gives them a rigorous education and teaches them Barça's unique way of playing the game. In some matches this season, all 11 players on the field were graduates of the football academy.” Spanish newspaper El Pais football columnist John Carlin said there are a “lot of serious people in the game who believe that this is the greatest football team that has ever been seen.” Simon said to Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, “Masia has been called a football factory. Is that unkind?” Pique: “I think factory, I don't really like this name. No, because finally we are humans, we are people.” Simon said because of the “Masia system, these days Barça doesn't have to spend a fortune buying good players. Barçabreeds them.”
GOING GLOBAL: Simon said, “Barça has changed from what was once something of a neighborhood club to a global franchise. It boasts the second-highest grossing Nike store in the world and it's worth an estimated $1.3B.” The club is not owned by “some rich mogul” but instead is a “not-for-profit owned by the club's members, 170,000 of them, each one with a vote.” Simon asked FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, “The slogan is, ‘More than a club.’ What does it mean?” Rosell: “It's a feeling. It's part of our lives. It's within our heart. It's something that is part of your culture and that's the reason it's more than a club.”
MORE THAN A CLUB: The club “means so much more” to its fans because it is an “affirmation of who they are, Catalans.” Barcelona is the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia and “many here want to secede from Spain and form their own state. The Barça players are their soldiers.” Rosell: “What this club represents to us, it represents to be part of a country called Catalonia.” Simon noted, “Over the last few months Barça fans have been acting like they're at a political rally. During every match the stadium erupts with cries for independence.” More Simon: “The politics may be particular to a piece of Southern Europe. The football belongs to the world” (“60 Minutes,” CBS, 1/6).
ESPN has reprimanded commentator Jon Champion after he called Liverpool FC player Luis Suárez "a cheat" following Liverpool’s second goal in the FA Cup against Conference National side Mansfield on Sunday, according to Neil Gardner of the LONDON TIMES. Suárez "appeared to use his right wrist to steer the ball" toward the goal. As Suárez performed his usual post-goal celebration by kissing the offending wrist, Champion said: "That, I’m afraid, is the work of a cheat." The broadcaster said in a statement: "We take our responsibility to deliver the highest standards of coverage to our viewers. ESPN’s editorial policy is for commentators to be unbiased and honest, to call things as they see them. Inevitably this can involve treading a fine line on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment. Comments during the Mansfield v. Liverpool match caused offence where none was intended and we have spoken to our commentator about this incident" (LONDON TIMES, 1/7). In London, Owen Gibson reported ESPN "had not been contacted by Suárez or Liverpool, but decided to act after a string of inquiries from viewers, Liverpool bloggers and the media." The club was "aggrieved by Champion's comments but had no plans to take it any further." Following the match, Mansfield CEO Carolyn Radford said the tie had been "stolen" from the club. This is ESPN's third year of a four-year deal to show 25 live FA Cup matches per season (GUARDIAN, 1/7). In London, David Kent wrote "it could be argued that the goal would not have created nearly as much of a stir had it been scored by any other player." Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers feels Suárez's reputation "goes before him." Rodgers said, "He has had seven yellow cards this year, but he hasn't warranted all seven" (DAILY MAIL, 1/7).
MIXED REACTION: Also in London, Ed Malyon reported the network's stance "has infuriated many neutrals and journalists alike." One insider said, "Cheating is breaking the rules in order to gain advantage from a situation, this is undoubtedly what Suárez did, and that he wasn't caught is an irrelevance." Football commentator Paul Sarahs defended Champion. Sarahs: "What he said immediately struck me as quite a brave call, but Jon is a vastly experienced and respected commentator who has shown throughout his career that he is even-handed and fair" (DAILY MIRROR, 1/7).
BBC Sport "has launched a new iPhone app to kick off '13, with an Android version to follow in the next few weeks," according to Stuart Dredge of the London GUARDIAN's Apps Blog. The app, which is free to download from Apple's App Store, "is a hybrid application blending HTML5-based web content with native iOS features." The content "includes news articles; live text commentaries and football scores; live streams of BBC radio stations 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra; social and personalisation features. Live video streams will be added later in '13." (GUARDIAN, 1/7). In London, Alex Masters wrote on the INDEPENDENT's Digital Digest Blog "the Android version of the new BBC Sport app is still in development, but is expected to launch in the coming weeks." BBC Sport Exec Product Manager for Mobile Services Lucie McLean stated on the official BBC Internet Blog that the Android app "still needs some more development work and testing to ensure it works on the wide range of Android devices available." The BBC is keen to point out that it "listened carefully to the feedback received" for its official London 2012 Olympics app. One of the biggest requests received was "support for larger screen sizes found in many Android devices, such as 7 inch tablets and large screen Android smartphones." The BBC also "plans to support Amazon’s range of Kindle Fire tablets, which are based on Google’s Android operating system, but will require additional testing once the Android app is complete" (INDEPENDENT, 1/7).
Austrian-based TV channel ServusTV scored high ratings for its live broadcast of the German Hockey League's (DEL) first outdoor game on Saturday. The five-hour broadcast of the DEL Winter Game between the Nuremberg Ice Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin from Nuremberg received a peak market share of 2.3% in the target demographic of 14-49 year-old viewers. The Winter Game, therefore, was the most-successful DEL game on ServusTV with a target demographic peak audience of 240,000 viewers. In the target demographic, an average of 160,000 watched Nuremberg's home victory against Berlin (DEL).
THE FINAL FLY: DWDL's Alexander Krei reported German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF "are excited about an increased audience interest in ski jumping's annual Vierschanzentournee." The fourth and final event from Bischofshofen, Austria attracted 6.57 million viewers on Sunday. Overall, all four ski jumping events combined had an average audience of 5.6 million viewers on ARD and ZDF, which is 1.1 million more than the previous year. In addition, the '12-13 Vierschanzentournee obtained a market share of 28.1%. Last year, the event had a 23.4% share. Not only ARD and ZDF "were able to count on the Vierschanzentournee," sports broadcaster Eurosport attracted an additional 440,000 viewers to Sunday's final event. The number translated into a market share of 1.9%. In the target demographic, the victory of Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer received a 1.3% share. Meanwhile, the ratings for Eurosport's biathlon broadcast on Sunday "were not as successful as ski jumping." The women's pursuit race from Oberhof, Germany, which aired at 1pm local time, attracted only 190,000 viewers. The men's pursuit race, which followed the women's race, attracted only slightly more people, 200,000 viewers, and had a market share of 1%. On ZDF both races attracted more than 5 million viewers (DWDL, 1/7).
SPLISH SPLASH: In London, Mark Sweney reported ITV's Tom Daley-fronted celebrity diving contest Splash! "made waves with viewers, attracting an average audience of 5.6 million viewers on Sunday." The five-part series, hosted by Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay, "attracted decidedly mixed reviews, but won its 7:15pm-8:15pm slot with an average audience share of 23.6%. Splash! had a 15-minute peak of 5.9 million viewers" (GUARDIAN, 1/7).
The NBA and Sky Sports have signed a TV deal to broadcast Sunday double-headers during the remaining portion of the league’s '12-13 regular season in the U.K. In addition, Sky Sports will broadcast select playoff games, the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals. The deal, which runs through the '12-13 season, comes after the league in December signed a deal with ESPN to carry three games per week in the U.K. and Ireland. Sky Sports’ NBA coverage will begin on Jan. 17 when the Detroit Pistons play the N.Y. Knicks in London. The live broadcast also will be shown in 3D.