3pm Blackout Rule – Why Aren’t 3pm Kick-Offs on TV?
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The 3pm kick-off is the slot in which most weekend football matches are played with multiple games happening simultaneously. However, they are never broadcast live on television due to the “football blackout”.
But what is the football blackout, and why aren’t 3pm games allowed to be televised on UK television? Check out everything you need to know as well as its history, reasoning, and future in this post.
What is the 3pm blackout rule?
The football blackout is the rule that no Premier League, Football League, or FA Cup matches. It is broadcast on live television on Saturday between 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm. Games may be played on that day and at that time. However, they are forbidden to be televised – with Saturday televised kick-offs mostly occurring at 12:30 pm or 5:30 pm.
Burnley chairman Bob Lord introduced the blackout idea in the 1960s. The idea was to ensure football matches in Britain still attract large attendances despite some games beginning to be televised.
He was convinced, for instance, that Manchester United was to play Liverpool on Saturday at 3 pm. Therefore, fans of lower division teams would instead opt to watch the match on television instead of attending the match of the team they actually supported. As a result, the financial income of lower league football would be reduced.
More than 40 years on, the rule is still in place. Foreign matches are also affected by the blackout. A broadcaster would not show the first 15 minutes of a match in La Liga that kicks off at 5 pm UK time, for example.
Until recently, the FA Cup final was an exception and had been broadcast at 3 pm on a Saturday in May. However, in 2012, the FA Cup Final was moved to 5 pm.
To be in accordance with blackout rules, the final day of the Premier League has all ten games kick-off at the same time on Sunday at 3 pm. And the final round of Football League fixtures is scheduled from 3 pm onwards on a Saturday in order to broadcast multiple games.
During the blackout period, live radio broadcasts are permitted both nationally and locally.
How to watch Premier League fixtures on TV this week
Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes allows any association to decide on a set period of 2.5 hours per Saturday and Sunday during which the transmission of football within that territory is prohibited. Since the blackout’s introduction, England and Scotland have applied this to 2:45 pm to 5:15 pm on a Saturday.
This currently means that no broadcaster can show the 3:15 pm game that is usually scheduled from La Liga. Viewers of the 5 pm game in Serie A have to check in 15 minutes after the first half has begun.
The blackout only occurs in the UK. Therefore, viewers from different continents can tune in to English and Scottish matches due to more comprehensive broadcasting packages being available.
Which countries observe the football blackout?
The UK is the only country to prohibit the broadcast of 3pm Saturday kick-offs.
The country has even made a tradition of the 3pm blackout rule. Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday is a show where a panel of pundits narrates in-game action excitedly to viewers with none of the match footage actually being shown. It is ever popular and the blackout could be one of the reasons why ratings for Match of the Day remain ever-popular.
Major European leagues in France, Spain, Germany, and Italy do not observe such a blackout. And there has been sufficient evidence to prove that closed periods do not affect the outcome of lower-league football match attendance.
It is a major irony that you are able to watch more Premier League games based in North America or Asia rather than England. It has prided itself as a nation that is the home of football.
Some associations spread their fixtures out to avoid a cluttered schedule. It gives lower divisions their own slot or a set fixture time for a top-flight fixture.
Germany is an often-used comparison, with attendance not affected by Bundesliga games. All games are shown live on TV at 3:30 pm local time on a Saturday. Bundesliga has its own kickoff slot when games begin at 1.30 pm on a Saturday. And no other matches are televised.
For the majority of leagues though, none qualify for a blackout approach.
Has there been any effort to get rid of the football blackout?
Naturally, UK-based football fans don’t always have the resources or financial ability to attend a game on matchday. They are only able to follow their game on television. And they are not being able to watch your team at 3pm can be frustrating.
In February 2011, Advocate General Kokott of the European Court of Justice launched an investigation into the “closed periods”. And they concluded that they did not affect match attendance at lower league games.
In 2016, Ofcom launched an investigation into the rights of televised football and surveyed football fans about whether they wanted to see a change. Their findings concluded that football fans were keen to see a balance struck between the number of games televised and the number of games that are to kick off on Saturday at 3 pm.
In December of 2017, however, the Premier League announced plans to bring forward a new kick-off time on Saturday at 7:45 pm which started from the 2019-20 season.
In 2022, reports suggested that the EFL would consider lifting the blackout in their TV rights sale, from 2024-25 on. EFL director Rick Parry had, the year before, said that they would be “open-minded” about new approaches to broadcasting.
Will the 3pm blackout rule ever end?
Since its adoption, football in England and Scotland has continued to follow the blackout’s schedule.
The only time it was altered was during the early waves of the Covid-19 pandemic – when fans couldn’t attend matches. The games were moved to different times to ensure supporters could watch as much football as possible during troubling times.
There has been opposition and criticism of the long tradition. However, it seems unlikely that the blackout will be curtailed.
To follow the rest of Europe and drop it, there would either have to be no games at 3pm on a Saturday or ten individual kick-off times with only one at 3pm on a Saturday. Neither option appears to be particularly enticing for your average Premier League fan.
Fans are in need of more ways to watch games. Some supporters scour the dark passages of the web to find illegal streaming services that broadcast matches. They often use VPNs to connect to other sides of the world like North America and Asia. These show more UK football live than the UK does.
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