Deployed service members watch World Cup at Al Asad

5 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

The World Cup is considered the world's most popular sporting event. It is watched by more people in more countries than the Olympics. Thanks to the actions of one lieutenant and her father, deployed service members everywhere will have the opportunity to watch these games.

The World Cup, an international soccer tournament held every four years and the world's best teams compete to prove who is best, originally was not going to be aired on the Armed Forces Network. AFN has a policy to not pay for news or sports programming and the company holding the rights to the soccer tournament wanted the network to pay to air the games. 1st. Lt. Erin K. Timmons and her father, John Kelly, wanted to do something about that.

Timmons, a projects officer with Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, started the process to get the World Cup played on AFN.

"When I heard that we were not going to get to see the World Cup, I was pretty upset," said Timmons, a native of Sea Girt, N.J. "I sent my dad an e-mail telling him how upset I was, and he ran with it from there."

"After I received the e-mail from my daughter, I figured that there had to be something I could do," said Kelly. "I thought that it was unfair for the service members to miss the world's most popular sporting event. I decided to see if I could help."

Kelly sent the e-mail he received from his daughter, along with the e-mail Timmons received saying the World Cup wouldn't be aired on AFN to George Vecsy, a sports writer for the New York Times. Vecsy then sent all the information to Richard Sandomir, another reporter at the New York Times.

"After I received the e-mail from George, I wrote an article that detailed how the company that was holding the rights for the World Cup games was demanding a rights fee from AFN," said Sandomir, a native of Forest Hills, N.Y. "After the article was published, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox Broadcasting Network along with other properties, thought it was wrong that the troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan would not get to see the World Cup."

"After Rupert read the article about the World Cup, he called and told me to, 'Get the rights to those games no matter what,'" said Greg Ginsberg, executive vice president, News Corporation. "We went out and acquired the rights to the World Cup so that our hard-working service members can see the games."

After the World Cup rights were purchased by News Corporation, they gave AFN free access to air the games on the AFN network.

"You can't ignore the world's biggest sports event," said Sandomir. "It's that important. The world goes nuts for it, and it's clear that many American troops love it."

"If the rest of the world can watch the World Cup, there is no reason that the men and women who sacrifice themselves for their country should not be able to watch it also," said Ginsberg.