October 19 – Internet sports broadcaster Eleven Sports says it is reluctantly dropping screening European football matches in the UK on Saturday afternoons.
Earlier this week UEFA said it was monitoring UK football’s traditional Saturday afternoon broadcast blackout being breached by Eleven which has been showing La Liga fixtures in the UK and Ireland despite a ban on the broadcasting of live games in the time slot between 2.45pm and 5.15pm.
Eleven planned to do the same for Serie A, but has now backed down, warning of the consequences.
“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,” a statement said.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
As well as the threat of legal action, the company warned that the psychological pressure it faced to withdraw its broadcasts would lead increased piracy of UK matches.
“It is irresponsible to leave the market in the hands of criminals,” said the Eleven statement.
“These games are very easily accessed on illegal sites online and it is naive to think that fans do not watch them because they are not shown on legitimate platforms, except betting sites.”
La Liga, Eleven Sports’ 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 “We continue to believe that the blackout is outdated.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.”
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