Adrian Healey’s done many amazing things in his soccer broadcasting career. He’s traveled the globe to call FIFA World Cup games, including three men’s and two women’s finals. He’s been on the mike for UEFA Champions League finals and the Summer Olympics. He’s been the lead announcer for six MLS Cups, and anchored ESPN’s MLS game coverage for most of the last decade.
And in 2021, he’ll embark upon a new adventure in Austin, becoming Austin FC’s Executive Director of Broadcast and Content — and, by extension, the English-language voice of Austin FC for its televised matches.
“I want my life to be in Austin,” Healey said of the transition to this new role in an interview Tuesday. “I love the vibrancy and the culture of the city.” He also predicts the club will “immediately make its mark, with the ownership and front office it has” in being a place players will be eager to develop and play.
“I’ve been watching the evolution of the different fan bases from afar,” he added, noting, “Austin’s seems exceptionally vibrant, and it also seems that it's just going to evolve and do its own thing, which is brilliant,” adding that finding its own way is “part of what the city is all about.”
Austin first appeared on Healey’s radar in 1994 when he attended his first SXSW Music Festival. Healey, a self-described “music fanatic” who worked in the music industry before finding his soccer calling, noted that even back then, “It was a city with a persona unlike any other.”
As he got to know MLS more, first recruited by the New England Revolution in 1998 to be its play-by-play broadcaster, he realized, “Austin would be an amazing MLS city.”
He’s been in a unique position to gauge MLS, involved with broadcasts in the first few years of the League when “there were times we thought we’d be lucky to have a league at all,” then involved with U.S. soccer broadcasts during a period when interest in the national team drove greater awareness and appreciation for MLS. By 2011, when Healey was calling MLS’s nationally-broadcast games, it was a changed league that had become, as he described it, “a lot more connected to the global game.”
Healey feels like Austin has the potential to elevate MLS even more. “It's a city of immense culture, a city of immense history. I always say great cities in the world have this tension pulling between the past and the future. And I feel that Austin has such a rich, amazing, colorful history which people are very proud of, but it's also got this unbelievably expansive future. There’s a tension between those two, I see it in London, I see it in Barcelona … I think that makes for a fascinating culture in a city.”
But he also views Austin FC as a club that, in his view, “can come in and be the true flagbearer for the city. I think it's going to reach out to all corners of the city, the wide and divergent fan base, and it really will represent Austin.”
Healey also sees the club as ambitious, and notes that Claudio Reyna’s move to become its Sporting Director in 2019 — after six years building NYCFC — caught his attention. “That, to me, said this team meant business.”
After initial conversations with Austin FC Founder, CEO and Majority Owner Anthony Precourt and President Andy Loughnane about broadcasting possibilities, he visited Austin in late February — his last big trip before the pandemic halted travel, sport, and much of American life. But Healey was so enamored with Austin that the discussions turned from him commuting by plane to call Austin FC home games to “going all in,” relocating to Austin, and taking a larger role with the team.
Healey will be involved with assembling the rest of the broadcast team calling matches in ‘21, and hints that both male and female voices could be involved in bringing Austin FC’s debut season to fans. He described his broadcasting style, “I provide the soundtrack, the accompaniment, but I’m not the show. There are times where you have to fill in the gaps … providing some color, some personality … but the players are the show. I’m just guiding it along, and adding, and illuminating.”
While Healey will still keep some involvement with ESPN, particularly during international breaks and during the MLS off-season, he and his family plan to move to Austin by the end of 2020 and experience pre-season once 2021 arrives. “I wouldn’t be doing this anywhere else,” he said of the move. “But Austin? Absolutely, I’ll change my life for that.”