Wigan Athletic: Door opened for end of Saturday 3pm 'blackout'

The EFL has opened the door for the Saturday 3pm television blackout to be lifted.

Under the current rules, any EFL fixture with a 3pm kick-off falls under the ‘blackout’ rule, meaning the game cannot be shown on TV or streamed in the United Kingdom.

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At the moment, only overseas Wigan Athletic fans can tune into the club’s streaming service to watch 3pm kick-offs.

The landscape surrounding televised coverage of football matches could be about to change forever

However, the EFL have confirmed that an invitation to bid for live rights will be sent out to interested parties – a move which could lead to the end of the blackout.

The EFL will likely target social media and streaming powerhouses, including Facebook, Netflix, Google, Apple and Amazon as well as the main domestic rights holders, Sky Sports and BT Sport.

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Sky Sports currently hold the rights to broadcast elect Championship, League One and League Two fixtures in the United Kingdom in a deal worth around £119million-per-year.

It is thought that the EFL's proposals could generate new income streams for clubs with the board hoping that by selling more matches they can get a better deal of up to £200million-per-year, which could see Latics’ share increase with fans able to watch more games on their TVs or online.

The broadcast rights will be available from the beginning of season 2024-25 when the current five-year agreement with Sky Sports expires and rights for all 1,891 matches across the Championship, League One, League Two, EFL Cup, EFL Trophy and all end-of-season play-off matches are available to bidders.

The EFL say they are taking ‘a fresh and new approach to this latest rights cycle’, adding that they are ‘inviting proposals that embrace innovation and offer contemporary solutions that cater for changing audience habits’.

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“With 54 per cent of the UK population watching EFL football on television each year and a global audience of more than 400 million, it’s an exciting time to be going to market for the league’s broadcast rights," said EFL chief commercial officer Ben Wright.

“While the appetite for EFL football remains stronger than ever, we want to grow this audience further.

"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.

"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.”

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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.

EFL chief Rick 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.”

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Bidders must submit responses by 5pm on November 21, 2022.