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English and Scottish FAs lift 3pm blackout rule for rest of season

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Spidercam at the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on August 27, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The English and Scottish FAs have lifted their bans on the televisual broadcast of Saturday 3pm football fixtures for the remainder of the season, in a move that suggests both bodies are preparing for a possible resumption of domestic football behind closed doors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision paves the way for pay-television broadcasters Sky and BT Sport to show 3pm Saturday Premier League matches, while BT and public service broadcaster the BBC could show matches from the domestic knock-out competition the FA Cup that kick off at that time.

English Football League clubs would also be able to show 3pm matches on the EFL’s OTT streaming service, iFollow.

It had previously been reported that the Premier League could ask Sky and BT to show the 3pm matches on a decrypted signal to allow the widest possible coverage if matches resumed without crowds as a result of the pandemic. But the broadcasters would still be expected to block coverage in pubs to prevent fans congregating in those premises.

The English and Scottish FAs approached European football’s governing body Uefa with the request to lift the blackout, which is underpinned by Article 8 of Uefa’s regulations. The ruling, which has been enforced in the England and Scotland since the 1950s, forbids live broadcasts of domestic or foreign matches between 2:45pm and 5:15pm on Saturdays as a measure to protect attendances at domestic matches.

Uefa is not responsible for enforcing the broadcasting blackout ban; that is the responsibility of the relevant FAs, who decide on their requested blackout hours and submit them to Uefa under Article 8. Montenegro is the only other European country that has a similar television broadcast blackout period.

In 2018, the subscription broadcaster Eleven Sports protested against the legislation by streaming live coverage of Saturday-afternoon LaLiga matches to UK viewers.