La Liga, the top flight of Spanish soccer, has supported international broadcaster Eleven Sports’ decision to break UK blackout rules referring to Saturday afternoon kick-offs.
For the past two weeks the over-the-top (OTT) streaming service has been ignoring a Football Association (FA) rule, an optionally enforced Uefa statute, that states matches on Saturdays between 2.45pm and 5.15pm cannot be broadcast live in the UK in order to protect match attendances in its domestic leagues.
The optional Uefa regulation is only currently enforced in England, Scotland and Montenegro, and has stood in the UK since the 1960s.
On 29th September, Eleven aired Barcelona’s 3.15pm kick-off against Athletic Bilbao and last weekend continued to defy the rule with Getafe’s game against Levante being broadcast live in its entirety at 3.15pm.
According to the Times, the Premier League, English soccer’s top tier, has protested to the FA, which has taken the matter up with Uefa, although it has yet to lodge an official complaint.
The Premier League’s position is at odds with its Spanish rival. Joris Evers, La Liga’s chief communications officer, told The Times: “This type of blackout doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s from a different age. We are aware of what Eleven Sports are doing and generally support them.
“People are used to watching things whenever and wherever they take place, on whatever devices they like. Today many people watch football in other ways, through piracy or video feeds or betting companies. And there are other sports like rugby that are screened at that time on a Saturday.”
Andrea Radrizzani, the owner of Eleven’s parent company Aser and chairman of English soccer club Leeds United, has vowed to keep defying the ban with Eleven’s UK broadcasts and said it is in discussions with Serie A about showing Italian games during the blackout, too.
“The rule should be reconsidered,” Radrizzani said. “There are betting websites which are showing the game live while we legitimately paid for the rights but cannot show it, according to law 48. Also, there are many illegal sites and pirates that we should fight against. So I would love to open a conversation, in a friendly way, to find a solution.
“I would also like to understand why this is competing with ticket sales in UK stadiums. Why not the Tour de France or other events that happen at the same time live on TV?”
An FA spokesman said: “We are aware of the matter and are looking into it through the appropriate channels.”
A Premier League spokesman said: “Along with other English football stakeholders, the Premier League continues to support the closed period to encourage attendances and participation through the football pyramid.”