Seattle Sounders import BBC vet Arlo White as announcer for 2nd season of MLS ‘football’

By Gregg Bell, AP
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sounders hire BBC’s White as ‘football’ announcer

SEATTLE — Arlo White has broadcast soccer from London’s cathedral of the sport, Wembley Stadium. He’s been all over England’s Premier League as a host for the British Broadcasting Corporation for the last decade.

Yet when he came to Seattle’s Qwest Field for the Sounders’ first Major League Soccer game last spring, White was blown away. He was even more surprised when he returned for a match in July and found the same feeling in Seattle’s sold-out crowds of 30,000-plus.

“I experienced a passion, a football intelligence, a football knowledge that seems inherent in them, like it is in Europe,” White said Wednesday. “I came away thinking, ‘I just had an authentic football experience in America.’”

Starting next month, Sounders games won’t just feel like Premiership matches. They will sound like them, too.

The team introduced White as its new play-by-play man for television and radio. Fittingly, the announcement came at a British pub while Premier League games played on the bar’s satellite televisions.

“This place even smells like a British pub,” he said amid the dominant hops aroma.

The 36-year-old native of Leicester, England, has worked the Premier League for the last nine years. White has also called five Super Bowls for the BBC, most recently Sunday’s night’s in Miami.

So will he call MLS games “football” or “soccer?”

“I’m going to call it football,” said White, whose British accent will be heard during Sounders’ simulcast for all 30 regular-season games from March into October. “I might say ’soccer’ to start with a little, but I think people will understand when I call it football.”

White fell in love with American sports when as an 18-year-old living briefly in Chicago he attended Cubs games at Wrigley Field and Bears games at Solider Field. He replaces former Seattle SuperSonics announcer Kevin Calabro.

Calabro has a Seattle radio show and national television commitments for basketball. The team wanted someone who could call every match.

White said British soccer fans are split in their view of the quality of MLS. The league has signed former Premiership stars such as England’s pop icon David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Sounders star Freddie Ljungberg (who played for West Ham in 2007-08) and Seattle goal keeper Kasey Keller (Fulham 2007-08).

“There are the people who actually take the time to watch MLS games. And there are other people more ignorant to it, who think it’s not one of the better leagues in the world,” White said.

“I happen to think it’s a pretty good league. Of course, Beckham coming over here … helped. And the fact Freddie Ljungberg talks well of it when he comes back to Europe, the fact that Kasey Keller talks well about it, legitimizes the league.”

White started a relationship with the Sounders in early 2006, while he was in Detroit to call the Super Bowl for BBC Radio. That year’s NFL title game matched the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks, the Sounders’ sister franchise with which they share executives, support staff and Qwest Field.

White says the NFL has helped created a booming “sea change” within the Premier League. He said before the BBC began broadcasting NFL games in the mid-1980s, the England’s top league was marred by hooliganism and decrepit stadiums.

“Executives of Premier League teams looked at a gleaming product and said, ‘That’s how we should do things,’” White said, noting the roaring success of the Premiership with its glittering, full stadiums and lucrative television contracts.

He sees the same qualities in the Sounders. So much so, he has decided to be apart from his wife and twin daughters.

They will remain in England at least for his first Seattle season, as he joins what White calls “just a first-class organization.”

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