Soccer gets its due from CBC

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Hockey Day in Canada has carved out a special niche with CBC's viewership.

Now it's soccer's turn to get the same kind of pitch.

The warm and fuzzy grassroots stories that have given Hockey Day its true charm over the years will be front and centre Sunday, when CBC launches the first Soccer Day in Canada. It's the fulfillment of a promise the public broadcaster made to FIFA when it inked an eight-year deal for 33 global soccer events, including the U-20 World Cup.

From 3-5 p.m. ET, CBC will bounce from coast-to-coast and up north to tell grassroots soccer stories. It will supply the lead-in to a U-20 doubleheader that features Canada-Congo from Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

"We believe we'll have a captive audience on the day that Canada will find out whether it's going on to the next round," CBC Sports executive producer Chris Irwin said. "We'll play on the things that have been successful (with Hockey Day) when a lot of the country is thinking about soccer with an eye on the U-20 games."

"We're really just taking the temperature about how soccer is finding its way into different parts of the country in different ways," Irwin said of the first Soccer Day.

"This is a sport that does reach a greater variety of people than hockey. While hockey does touch all communities in Canada in some way, soccer does it in a different way."

CBC's Scott Russell will front the telecast from Edmonton. Russell will anchor a debate between matches about the state of the game in Canada.

"We're hoping this day will provide a glimpse into the soccer nation that we haven't taken the time to do in the past," Irwin said.

ONLINE FRENZY

While TSN's average audience figures for its first Free-agent Frenzy special on Canada Day hardly were overwhelming (96,000 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. ET; 149,000 for a recap show, 6-7 p.m.), the bigger story was at tsn.ca. The website had 7.6 million total page views Sunday, one of the five busiest days in tsn.ca history. Usually it averages one million views a day, but 1.3 million were recorded for the free-agent section alone.

A GIANT ADDITION

Rogers Sportsnet has ramped up its coverage of Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron's career home run record. The network has added six San Francisco Giants games to its schedule.


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