Insights from James Sharman: Soccer, Broadcasting, and iGaming
Author: Kris Olson Kris Olson, Expert Casino Reviewer & Journalist at CasinoRIX

Insights from James Sharman: Soccer, Broadcasting, and iGaming

Welcome to an exclusive interview with James Sharman, an experienced sports broadcaster and well-known figure in Canadian soccer reporting, brought to you by CasinoRIX. For over twenty years, James has impressed viewers with his humor and deep understanding, whether hosting “The Footy Show” on the Score Television network or leading coverage of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League on Rogers Sportsnet, to his latest project – co-founding and hosting Footy Prime the Podcast. James is well-known for his interviews with the top soccer players and his dedication to advancing the sport in Canada, combining his knowledge and humor in every conversation. Come with us on a journey as we explore James’s experience in the soccer field and beyond. 

Q: Hello, James, and thank you for participating in this interview. We’re delighted to have you with us. 

You’re a fascinating personality with extensive experience in football popularisation, especially in Canada. Where does such a love for this sport stem from?

A: I’ve always been obsessed with sport, all sport really. Starting my day with the sports section of a paper, or these days an app/site is how I’ve always kicked things off each morning. So, growing up in England it was rugby, cricket and of course football. As a kid of the 80’s I gravitated to the dominating team of the era – Liverpool, and just fell in love with the sport. Liverpool’s style of play, swagger and the huge personalities on those teams, just pulled me in.

Q: You were born in England; when did you move to Canada, and under what circumstances?

A: I moved over to Canada in 1990 with my family. My parents had actually met in Toronto in the 1960’s, but moved back to England to start a family. They tried for many years to move back, and eventually got the thumbs up in 1990. I had just turned 16, and figured I’d stay for a couple of years and head home. Thirty four years later, and here I am… still in Canada.

Q: Could you elaborate on how you began your career? When did you become a professional sportscaster?

A: I graduated Uni with a Media Arts degree in 1993, and right away accepted an internship at the fledgling new sports network, Headline Sports (which soon became The Score.) I was fascinated in Producing TV, which is the direction I gravitated to after being hired following my internship. Creating a brand and building it was a great challenge and something I loved. Then, around 2000 my boss suggested I should also be on the other side of the camera. I had no ambition to be on-camera to that point, but figured, why not? Turns out I loved it, and it allowed me to tell the stories that I produced, exactly as I wished to. It also allowed me to interview, something I was always intrigued about. I was fortunate at the Score, to be able to create, produce and host my own content.

Q: You worked at The Score – how did it influence your further growth?

A: I can’t put into words how the Score helped my growth as a broadcaster. Such a new company, with such courage to try anything and take on the more established networks. The Score always encouraged us to use our personalities and to not conform to the typical traditional (boring) sportscaster. That is something I took with me wherever I went. I still get recognised as “the soccer guy from the Score” well over a decade after I left. Says it all, really.

Q: You’re currently actively involved in producing The Podcast Footy Prime by TonyBet. Could you tell us more about this project?

A: Footy Prime is something that was born out of unemployment. After Sportsnet lost the rights to soccer, Craig Forrest, Danny Dichio and I still wanted to chat footy together, but do it our way. Dan Wong and Jeff Cole jumped aboard and the pod was born. Although ambitious, it was really a great chance for us to meet once a week and muscle through the pandemic. Fast forward to 2024, we have seven podcasts a week, a new website and two other Hall of Famers, Jimmy Brennan and Amy Walsh have joined the team, while Dich has returned to the coaching world. It really is something we don’t take for granted. We have built an amazing community, with our own supporters club to boot. Football is really the vehicle for us to talk about anything and everything. We can be juvenile, emotional, insightful and sometimes just plain stupid; basically like any group of friends when they hang out.

Q: Share your plans for the future soccer popularization in Canada. Do you have any other ideas and concepts?

A: I really believe authenticity is the future of broadcast. The days of stuffy people in stuffy suits talking down to their audience is a thing of the past. Sports fans are more sophisticated than ever, they know their sport. Therefore as members of the media, we need to talk to them, not at them. Soccer is leading the way with this, and although Canada is still in its infancy as a soccer nation and is facing all sorts of hurdles, I really believe we can at least lead the way as medium to talk about the sport. Footy Prime is central to this. 

Q: You’re also acknowledged in European football – what is your favorite football team and why? 

A: Well, as I mentioned Liverpool is my favourite club team, despite not ever living near Liverpool, and of course England is the national team that has caused me the most heartbreak and most joy. That said, as I get older, I have to root for Canada more than any team, even if I am covering them as a member of the media. A successful and functional Canadian men’s and women’s team is crucial to grow the sport over here. All that said, Saturday mornings I will always be glued to the TV watching the Prem.

Q: It’s known that hockey is the most popular sport in Canada; do you see an increase in interest in soccer in recent years?

A: We are still riding the wave of popularity in Canada. It started in 2007 with Toronto FC joining MLS, soon followed by Vancouver and Montreal. The party boys and girls in the stands in those early years are now getting married and having kids, who are now being raised as fans of those teams. This has never happened before and it is very exciting. The Canadian Premier League is now upon us, again growing the sport and recruiting new fans. A World Cup on home soil in 2026 will hopefully be the tipping point, but the days of soccer fans only watching and supporting teams from overseas are slowly coming to an end.

Q: Our project covers news in the iGaming industry, and I can’t help but ask: in your opinion, how does the legalization of sportsbook companies in North America affect the development of sports? Very often, such companies become sponsors of football teams.

A: I was at a party recently with lots of people who knew nothing about soccer, but many if whom who had their phones out and were laying wagers on various matches. They are becoming interested through the ability to bet on the sport. It is enormous, and although there remains a hypocrisy in the sports world, which in many cases still views gambling with a stigma, it is more and more becoming dependent financially on the industry. From sponsoring, we will soon see gambling companies purchasing teams. The world had changed.

Q: How do you spend your leisure time? Do you play football or have other hobbies? 🙂

A: Most of my time is divided between being a Dad, husband, broadcaster, writer and podcaster… not to mention pie maker! It doesn’t leave much time for much else, but I do find time to stay in semi-decent shape, while still enjoying the finer things in life. That said, an arthritic toe has really curtailed by effectiveness on the pitch… not that it was ever very effective to begin with.

Q: You also opened Sharman’s Proper Pies in 2017 with your wife – was it her idea, or do you also enjoy cooking?

A: I would say it was a joint-idea, and a joint effort until the last couple of years when my wife has really been the driving force behind its growth. The plan was for me to always return to the media world, while always having one foot at least in the business. It is a ton of fun, a ton of work and hopefully we are beginning to see the start of world pie domination!

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