Eleven Sports to stop showing live European matches at 3pm on Saturdays
Eleven Sports are to abandon their controversial tactic of screening European football matches on Saturday afternoons.
The digital-only broadcaster, run by the Leeds United owner, Andrea Radrizzani, had come under pressure from the game’s stakeholders after the company had begun streaming Italian and Spanish fixtures in the UK at the same time as the majority of English clubs were playing their league matches.
In a statement, Eleven Sports said they had now decided to change that policy. It said: “Out of respect for the wishes of our partners, we will for the time being no longer show matches during the Saturday afternoon blackout period.
“Fans in the UK should have the freedom and the choice to watch these games legally through the official rights holder, as they do all over the world. Regrettably, intense pressure from stakeholders within the football establishment means that football fans across the country do not have this option.”
The row over the 3pm blackout, which dates back to the 1950s and is observed only in England, Scotland and Montenegro, has become a proxy for a broader debate about the future of the game. Eleven Sports argue that a modern football audience, who largely consume the game through TV, are not having their needs served by a rule which prioritises preserving attendances at lower league grounds.
“We maintain our strong view that the rule is unfit for the modern, digital era – particularly for overseas games which we hold the rights to,” Eleven Sports said. “With the best interests of football fans at heart, we are currently considering all legal and regulatory options, including the referral of the case to the appropriate authorities.”
La Liga, Eleven’s broadcast partner, said they continued to support Eleven’s stance on the blackout. “We continue to believe that the blackout is outdated. Eleven Sports is taking the right steps to challenge the blackout and we support them.”
However, the chief executive of the EFL, Shaun Harvey, said the blackout remained crucial. “The origins of Article 48 were to protect the interests of the game in this country as a whole, you can’t be half in or half out,” he said. “The 3pm protection when Premier League and Championship games are being played is absolutely vital.”