How new broadcasters could end the 3pm British football blackout

Southampton 3-3 Tottenham was a recent 3pm game
Southampton 3-3 Tottenham was a recent 3pm game / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

One of the most divisive topics in British football is the 3pm blackout which is enshrined in law by Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes which the FA applies. It stops any live football matches from being broadcasted between 2:45pm and 5:15pm on Saturdays.

It's something fans in many other countries find surprising and confusing, while there are lots of people in the United Kingdom who believe it is crucial to protecting the lower divisions of the sport.

With football changing constantly, it could end up soon being a thing of the past with new broadcasters waging war against the blackout.

Why does the 3pm blackout exist?

The rule has been in place since before the First Division became the Premier League, meaning millions of fans have never known any different. Only the early and late matches on a Saturday can be shown. It applies to Premier League, Football League and FA Cup games.

It started in the 1960s thanks to Burnley chairman Bob Lord, who thought televising these games at 3pm would hinder the attendance figures at lower league games, as people would rather stay at home to watch football. The thought process is clearly that, say Arsenal were set to play Tottenham at 3pm on a Saturday, people would rather watch that than head down to their local League One, League Two or National League side and pay to see them play.

An unusual quirk is that the rule also applies to foreign football. At the moment, BT Sport show Serie A football but the match that starts at 17:00 BST on a Saturday will only begin to be televised at 17:15, when the blackout ends.

The UK is the only country to do this, which is why shows with pundits covering all of the 3pm kick-offs such as BT Sport Score, Final Score and Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday exist and are a big part of football culture. There have been studies showing that in countries like France, Spain, Germany and Italy, there are no reduced attendances at lower league games while top flight matches take place.

How could the 3pm blackout end?

A change in broadcaster for the EFL could be what finally brings the 3pm blackout to a close, something that would be welcomed by many but not all fans.

DAZN would like to see the rule removed from the 2024/25 season so they can show all 1,671 EFL matches live each season. Sky Sports currently hold the EFL rights and have done since 2002. They pay £119m a year and show 138 games per season.

Both DAZN and Viaplay have expressed serious interest in getting the EFL rights off of Sky and BT Sport. DAZN are very vocal about what they view as a 'medieval' rule which only makes fans use illegal streams to watch 3pm Premier League matches.

Read more on the play-off hunt across the EFL


When their chief executive, Shay Segev, spoke to The Times, he said: "Football is obviously very big in the UK and EPL is an option on our menu. If the question is do we have any ambition to go to this market, the answer is of course yes. And it's not only ambition it's a high priority on my list.

"DAZN is a sports service and clearly we will try to get bigger packages but the maths needs to work. The question is the economic situation, the competition and whether we will be in a position to be strong enough to position ourselves as the best. I am very, very confident that in the mid to long-term we can be a big player in the UK."

Fans will have to wait until the summer before the announcement is made as to who will win the EFL broadcast packages.


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