Premier League

The 3pm football blackout explained

Jude Summerfield
The blackout has been in effect since the 1960s
The blackout has been in effect since the 1960s / Marc Atkins/GettyImages
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The 3pm blackout. We've all heard of it, but what does it actually entail?

It comes down to the broadcasting of football games, with most not available to be seen in the United Kingdom due to their kick-off times.

Missed your new signing taking to the pitch for the first time because you couldn't get to the stadium and it wasn't available on television? We've all been there, but there's more to the 3pm blackout than just the powers that be being annoying.


What is the 3pm blackout rule?

The blackout idea was introduced by Burnley chairman Bob Lord in the 1960s. The idea was to ensure football matches in Britain still attract large attendances despite some games beginning to be televised.

By keeping the majority of Britain's games on Saturdays at 3pm, football clubs can continue to bring in large audiences at stadiums with no harm to their income.

Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes allows any association to decide on a set period of 2.5 hours per Saturday and Sunday during which the transmission of football within that territory is prohibited. Ever since the blackout's introduction, England and Scotland have applied this to 2:45pm to 5:15pm on a Saturday.

This currently means that no broadcaster can show the 3:15pm game that is usually scheduled from La Liga, while viewers of the 5pm game in Serie A have to check in 15 minutes after the first half has begun.

The blackout only occurs in the UK, so viewers from different continents can tune in to English and Scottish matches due to more comprehensive broadcasting packages being available.


Do other leagues use the 3pm blackout?

Not in the same format. Some associations spread their fixtures out to avoid a cluttered schedule, giving lower divisions their own slot or having a set fixture time for a top flight fixture.

Germany is an often used comparison, with attendances not affected by Bundesliga games all being shown live on TV at 3:30pm local time on a Saturday.

2. Bundesliga has its own kickoff slot, when games begin at 1.30pm on a Saturday and no other matches are televised.

For the majority of leagues though, none qualify for a blackout approach.


Will the 3pm blackout ever end?

Since its adoption, football in England and Scotland has continued to follow the blackout's schedule.

The only time it was altered was during the early waves of the Covid-19 pandemic - when fans couldn't attend matches - when games were moved to different times to ensure supporters could watch as much football as possible during troubling times.

While there has been opposition and criticism to the long tradition, it seems unlikely that the blackout will be curtailed.

To follow the rest of Europe and drop it, there would either have to be no games at 3pm on a Saturday, or ten individual kick-off times with only one at 3pm on a Saturday. Neither option appears to be particularly enticing for your average Premier League fans.

In terms of criticism, some onlookers have called for an updated ruling for what they consider an archaic law.

Fans are in need of more ways to watch games, considering football's universal appeal in the modern age, and dropping the blackout could lead to greater viewership according to some.

Instead, some supporters scour the dark passages of the web to find illegal streaming services that broadcast matches, often using VPNs to connect to other sides of the world like North America and Asia that show more UK football live than the UK does.

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