By Gareth James
Swansea City, Cardiff City and Newport County fans could be able to watch their teams perform live on their screens every Saturday afternoon within a couple of seasons.
Lifting the Saturday 3pm blackout is one option the English Football League could consider in the sale of its next television and media rights.
The league confirmed on Wednesday it had issued a Request For Proposal (RFP), inviting interested broadcasters and media companies to come forward and suggest new ways of presenting the league on television and streaming platforms from the 2024-25 season, when its current deal with Sky Sports expires.
Lifting the ban on screening any matches live between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday is an option being considered, but ultimately nothing is off the table as the EFL seeks to find solutions which cater for changing viewer habits.
“Whilst the appetite for EFL football remains stronger than ever, we want to grow this audience further,” the EFL’s chief commercial officer Ben Wright said.
“We are inviting proposals from organisations that can enhance and develop the league’s offering, taking a new and innovative approach to how people consume EFL content.
The 3pm Sat blackout’s become a bit of a farce anyway in recent years as any game TV wants gets moved, usually to the detriment of fans attending the match.
— Luke Senior (@LukeLukesenior) October 12, 2022
“Alongside the EFL’s rich tradition and distinguished history there is a desire to evolve, grow and innovate in order to grow our audience further and we’re looking for a partner or partners who share that vision.”
EFL chairman Rick Parry said a year ago that the league would not rule out lifting the blackout.
The block, which associations are allowed to impose under Article 48 of UEFA regulations, dates back to the 1960s and is designed to protect live attendance at matches throughout the football pyramid.
It was temporarily lifted when spectators were barred from stadia due to the coronavirus pandemic but restored for the current season.
I think that you’ve completely misunderstood the point of the 3pm blackout. It’s got lower league and non-league clubs who rely on casual fans popping along at 3pm on a Saturday and that footfall will decline with everyone staying home to watch a 3pm game on tv
— Daniel Hodder (@DanielHodder7) October 12, 2022
Parry said last October: “I don’t see (an end to the blackout) as being essential. Having said that, I don’t necessarily rule it out.
“We are almost unique in Europe now in having a blackout period. I’m not presuming that it goes, but equally, if we’re looking at streaming, at new technologies and new broadcasters, we will probably have to be open-minded in terms of scheduling.”