Eleven Sports will no longer broadcast European football matches in the UK on Saturday afternoons, the firm has said.
That ruling dates back to the 1950s and is only observed in England, Scotland and Montenegro. Eleven Sports, run by Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani, believed the blackout to be outdated and considered that their digital-only platform (with games shown via their website or app) meant they were not in breach of the regulations.
However, they have changed their tune following a wave of criticism and on Thursday, a statement 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.”
Nevertheless, Eleven Sports did go on to reiterate their opposition to the old law.
“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,” the broadcaster 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 have also come out in support of their broadcast partner. “We continue to believe that the blackout is outdated,” they said. “Eleven Sports is taking the right steps to challenge the blackout and we support them.”
However, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey believes the blackout is necessary to safeguard attendance figures in the UK.
“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 Football League games are being played is absolutely vital.”