It’s no secret that there’s more and more live football being shown on TV these days, at all sorts of times. We now have Monday night and even Friday night matches being televised. But have you ever asked why Saturday 3pm kick offs are still not broadcast in the UK?
Isn’t it weird that people in other countries are allowed to watch 3pm Premier League matches live, but we can’t?
In this article, we’ll explain the reasons behind this. It’s called the blackout rule, and it’s been in place since before most of us were born…
What Is The TV Blackout Rule?
It all started way back in the 1960s when businessman and the then Burnley chairman Robert “Bob” Lord said that having televised games on Saturday afternoons could and would affect crowd attendances of other league games taking place at the same time.
Lord was a controversial character who had issues with both newspaper journalists and the television media people at times. However, he had his principles and the backing of the other league chairman that the traditions of football clubs should be maintained and therefore convinced the Football League Association to bring in a new ruling.
The rule or blackout period as it is now known is still in place in the UK to this day, which means both Premier League and Football League matches being played between 3pm and 5pm on Saturday afternoons are not allowed to be shown on TV. The actual official blocked broadcasting hours are between 2.45pm and 5.15pm, which is why early kick offs on Saturday have had to start at 12.30pm or 12.45pm and evening games not starting until 5.30pm.
Should The Rule Be Lifted?
There are arguments from both sides, but when you know that the other big leagues in Germany, Italy, France and of course Spain don’t have this type of ruling you have wonder why does the UK still have it in place?
Well, as we know, the ruling was originally put in place to protect mainly the smaller football teams across the UK, so fans would still attend their own teams games rather than just watching the “big” league or cup match on the box. For that reason alone, the Football Supporters Federation still supports the blackout and have said that when they asked 8000 fans last year on their opinion, over 70 per cent agreed that the blackout should stay.
Is that because of tradition and the way new and younger fans that are being introduced to the game should experience football? By actually getting out there and enjoying the match-day experience rather than watching it on a phone or TV screen.
We believe the majority of match day going fans will always continue to go to games, however the issue they have is that they have less and less 3pm games to go to because of the increase in matches shown outside the blackout period.
Who has the biggest say in the matter?
Sky Sports has spent millions on broadcasting rights for Premier League and English Football League matches and seem now to have the right to show more and more games at various times over the weekend. Including Sundays, Mondays and Fridays, along with the early, late and now even later Saturday night kick-off times.
The also have their Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday show which is and has been very successful over the years and is now a tradition for a lot of non-going match day fans who have it on at home or watch it down the pub.
Other TV companies like the BBC who show Match of the Day would certainly lose a lot of their viewers if goals and games were allowed to be shown at Saturday 3pm, so they’d be against it.
Do the fans have much say in the matter, not really. The Football Association Premier League (FAPL) sells the rights to broadcast live games to BT as well as Sky and they then sell their subscription and services to those who can afford to pay for it. For some of those who can’t, licensed premises like pubs and clubs pay a larger amount of money for the subscription.
How Come Some Pubs Still Show 3pm Matches?
They get around it because as we all know, boxes and equipment is purchased from across Europe and brought into this country for people to watch in their own homes as well as down the pub. These boxes are purchased for a one-off fee and provide foreign feeds of most 3pm matches via decoder cards, which allows encrypted feeds to be decoded.
This however is breaking the rules that are in place and there is a massive clampdown by the authorities to stop people doing this. Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998, it’s a criminal offence for a person to make, import, distribute, sell or hire unauthorised decoder boxes or equipment.
As much as the clampdown is in place, 3pm kick offs are still shown in various places up and down the country but it is nowhere near as popular as it used to be. When local pubs would mainly be crammed full of blokes for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.
It seems less popular these days, but is that because fewer places are showing these games or it is because technology has moved on and people can now actually watch the stream they were watching down the pub on their phone now. We think it’s a bit of both but certainly if you’re a match-day going fan but for some reason can’t make a game because you cannot get an away ticket, then someone somewhere will be showing your match.
We certainly imagine the use of streaming will also be looked at again, but we can’t see the blackout period being removed or even changed at any point in the future.