In another unprecedented step necessitated by the coronavirus outbreak, UK TV stations will be able to televise football live at 3pm on Saturdays, after UEFA lifted the ‘blocked hours’ protection for the remainder of the season.
Broadcasters have been banned from televising matches at the traditional kick-off time since the 1950s, initially implemented to encourage amateur players to take part in matches on Saturday afternoons.
It has since become something of a failsafe to encourage fans to attend matches rather than stay home and watch football on the TV. However, as the coronavirus continues to grip the sport, ?The Times report that blackout has been lifted until the end of the season.
?The newspaper reports that the UEFA regulation banning broadcasters in England, Scotland and Montenegro has been updated, and now reads: “Taking into account the current exceptional circumstances, UEFA has lifted the ‘blocked hours’ protection granted to the England and Scotland for the remainder of the 2019-20 football season, following requests from the relevant national associations as a result of measures taken in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It means that ?Premier League, EFL and SPFL Premiership matches, should the season resume, will have no restrictions on when they are allowed to be televised.
The same applies to the FA Cup and Scottish Cup.
Reading between the lines, this is a major step towards the eventuality of football being played behind closed doors in order to conclude the current domestic season.
Premier League clubs are reported to be keen to avoid the prospect of voiding the season and the accompanying financial consequences of failing to fulfil broadcasting contracts. But with no end in sight to the ban on mass gatherings in the UK, closed-doors matches look like the only real means of bringing the season to a reasonable end in time for UEFA’s 30 June deadline.
The temporary easing of broadcasting restrictions means that fans who would have gone to games will not necessarily miss out on watching their team play on Saturday afternoons.