October 16 – UEFA has diplomatically stepped into the debate over UK football’s traditional Saturday afternoon broadcast blackout being breached by saying it is in talks with the English and Spanish leagues following reports that online streaming service Eleven Sports is defying the rules.
Eleven has this season been offering La Liga games at 3.15pm on Saturdays to UK viewers despite a ban on the broadcasting of live football between 2.45pm and 5.15pm.
The rule is enforced to protect match day attendances in the English leagues though at UEFA it is only viewed as an optional regulation. In place since the 1960s, it is now only enforced in England, Scotland and, bizarrely, Montenegro.
UEFA is trying to resolve the issue, which could be construed as restraint of trade, as delicately as possible. “We are in contact with the English and Spanish FA on the matter even if no official complaint has been lodged yet by the English FA,” a statement said.
Eleven is owned by Andrea Radrizzani who also owns Leeds United and has UK rights to Italy’s Serie A, taking over from BT Sport. It also holds rights to La Liga and has partnered with Facebook as its free-to-air partner in the UK with at least one match a week from Serie A and La Liga showing live on the social media platform.
A Premier League spokesperson said: “Along with other English football stakeholders, the Premier League continues to support the closed period to encourage attendances and participation through the football pyramid.”
But on its Facebook page, Eleven Sports posted: “We disagree with the ban and will continue to challenge it with the best interest of our customers at heart.”
Joris Evers, La Liga’s chief communications officer, told Bloomberg: “We support Eleven Sports in pushing the envelope in making matches available on Saturday afternoons. People are watching football either through piracy or on betting websites anyway. Upholding the ban does not make much sense.”
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