I’ve watched a lot of soccer as an American fan, but there’s a strong chance that of all the great broadcasters of the sport, I’ve listened to Clive Tyldesley more than anyone.
That’s thanks almost entirely to his work with EA Sports as the lead commentator for FIFA games over the years.
But he’s also called multiple World Cups and decades of Champions League finals in his work for ITV. For the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, however, Tyldesley wasn’t on the call beyond the early knockout stages, and he opened up to the Mirror as to why he left early after being dropped behind ITV lead voice Sam Matterface and #2 choice Jon Champion.
Tyldesley was clearly looking to set the record straight after some British reporting characterized him as quitting in frustration mid-tournament, which Tyldesley denies, noting instead that while he was disappointed to not call a quarterfinal match, he had instead sought permission to leave rather than stick around to offer commentary for a highlight package that was to be his last assignment.
“Was I bitterly disappointed? You bet I was. But it’s a decision I’ve got to accept and in the grand scheme of things people don’t turn it on for the commentator, they turn it on for the football. I didn’t agree with the decision but I accepted it.
“I was offered a quarter-final to commentate on for highlights. It would have meant me staying on in Qatar for another four or five days to essentially commentate on 10 minutes of television post-midnight. I said I would be happy to do it if they couldn’t cover without me but my preference was to fly home early if possible and they said OK.”
And as for any lingering animosity, Tyldesley pointed out that he’s working for ITV on FA Cup coverage in January. He also took to Twitter to clear it up even further:
Just for clarification… it was no big deal ? https://t.co/zKOXGxwF4g
— Clive Tyldesley (@CliveTyldesley) December 16, 2022
Plenty of Clive’s followers took the opportunity to note that for them, it was actually a loss:
Yes it was Clive
— Ant (@AMGiGames) December 16, 2022
It was to us football fans Clive, it really was (read in Ally’s voice?)
— Ant (@Ant_Dale86) December 16, 2022
Except for those that would rather listen to you on comms than ITV’s so called ‘Lead Commentator. It would be like France dropping Mbappe for Neal Maupay on Sunday
— Alex Smith (@alexdsmiff) December 16, 2022
At 68, Tyldesley is clearly on the backside of his broadcasting career, but that doesn’t mean that fans can’t be annoyed at ITV’s call. Credit him for taking a demotion in stride, though, especially as it’s the second one in just a few years, having been demoted from lead voice in 2020.
The irony for me is that for all the British broadcasters who worked on American television, Tyldesley’s work came to me via video games and not watching the actual sport. Still, given how much I wore out various copies of FIFA circa 2012-2014, Tyldesley will pretty much always have a place for me as the voice of soccer.
It’s great he has a healthy perspective on what happened in Qatar, but as someone with an affinity for his work (albeit in a very different setting), it’s still unfortunate it happened that way.