Cristiano Ronaldo 18 years later he made his second debut for Manchester United. The story of his return to Old Trafford turned out to be beautiful: the Portuguese scored in the 47th minute of the meeting with Newcastle, opening the scoring. The main event of the day was seen by the whole world, with the exception of Cuba, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Afghanistan and … Great Britain: neither Sky Sports, nor BT Sport, nor Amazon (all – holders of the rights to show the Premier League within the country) can show the game due to the rule , which was established in the league back in the 1960s of the last century.
The only Britons who legally watched the match are those who made it to Old Trafford today. Considering that it is only 75 thousand people, there is a high probability that this match will become the most “pirate” in the history of British football.
Every Saturday, from 14:45 to 17:15, football matches are prohibited in England: Premier League, La Liga, Serie A – everything falls under the blackout rule. When this ban was just introduced, it was believed that just during this period of time, fans should go to stadiums, including games of small local teams. In the 60s, the logic was obvious: the clubs had nothing from TV broadcasts, and their main income came from ticket sales – the absence of a match on TV encouraged fans to choose a chair on the podium instead of a home sofa. The author and main engine of this idea was Burnley President Bob Lord, who believed that television was the main evil standing in the way of earning money for football clubs. His conviction was so deep that from 1964 to 1969, there were no BBC cameras in his club’s stadium – and no one could do anything about it.
In those days, clubs only benefited from the introduction of blackout – especially small teams. But with the advent of the digital age, what once seemed good turned into real evil, spawning a boom in pirated content and no longer looking as logical as before. In 2018, when the Eleven Sports service (the copyright holder of La Liga in the 2018/2019 season) broke the rule by showing the Barcelona – Athletic match on one Saturday, which began at 15:15, and exactly a week later at the same time – the meeting between Getafe and Levante, its owner was reasonably indignant: “Why only football broadcasts distract fans from Saturday trips to the stadium? Why, then, can the Tour de France and other sporting events be shown during these matches? “
Is blackout legal?
Yes! Article 48 of the UEFA media rights regulation states that each country has not only exclusive rights to broadcast its tournaments, but can also independently regulate their broadcasting. This includes defining any time period of 2.5 hours on Saturday or Sunday during which no football broadcasts can be shown on the TV screen.
Globally and legally, the rule was violated only once: Saturday’s blackout was officially removed in the pandemic 2020 – then the league had no choice to do otherwise, because visiting the stadiums was banned.
The most interesting thing is that there is simply no direct evidence of the influence of this rule on attendance in the current conditions, but the Premier League is still not going to cancel it. It is clear, however, that canceling the blackout could raise the already high cost of a telecontract while boosting club revenues.
Instead, pirated broadcasts are on the rise, and one of the most popular methods is using Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). It is a legal way to stream digital TV, which is cheaper than broadcast packages, but is illegal for watching football matches in the UK. When the league decided last October to start charging fans an extra £ 14.95 to watch some games (including the already expensive subscriptions to Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon), IPTV services spiked up to offer their services. for £ 20 a year.
Sellers of illegal broadcasts are constantly hunted, but as demand grows, so does the supply. The UK government regularly blocks sites, Twitter accounts, where IPTV providers advertise their services, but the situation is not getting better. There is still a lot of pirated content because the Premier League continues to pay tribute to tradition and believe that blackout is helping to increase attendance in the pyramid of English football.