Bolton Wanderers CEO urges EFL clubs to scrap 3pm blackout

Kiran Thakare 1 month ago

Neil Hart has called on members of the Football League to "be brave" and make changes to broadcasting rules

Neil Hart, Chief Executive of League One side Bolton Wanderers, has asked the other clubs in the English Football League (EFL) to "be brave" and back new proposals which would bring to an end the infamous 3pm TV blackout.

The "blackout" refers to the rule which bars broadcasters from airing coverage of matches taking place between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays. This window eliminates the chance for games from the Championship, League One and League Two with 3pm kickoffs to be broadcast on live TV - the majority of fixtures played in the EFL calendar.

Clubs discuss scrapping the 3pm blackout

The blackout has been a hot topic among clubs for decades, and in recent years the idea of removing the restrictions on broadcasting has been gaining more and more ground.

Bolton CEO Hart is the latest in a long line of executives and other stakeholders in the EFL to voice their support for the scrapping of the blackout.

The debate around the blackout has always surrounded the extent to which live attendances would be affected by the live broadcast of games. Ticket sales, merchandise and other matchday revenue are believed by many to be the financial backbone of most clubs in the English pyramid. There has long been concern among some stakeholders that competing with live TV coverage of games could negatively impact attendances and subsequently revenue.

The argument to change EFL broadcast rules

However, Neil Hart believes that the appeal of live football would not be diminished by live TV and has urged other clubs in the league system to "be brave" in the face of potentially seismic changes to the current model.

In a recent interview, Bolton Wanderers CEO Neil Hart said:

“I think football should be brave and positive and say we believe in the live product, and they will still want to come, and there is an audience who want to watch at home."

“How soon could that happen? It is for the EFL, it would take time to push through but I don’t see why not in the next season or two. There has to be cooperation and discussion and agree a favourable position for all 72 clubs."

“I think generally there is a pro-streaming view to drop Article 48, and to discuss the funding mechanism of who gets what, when. There is support if the conditions are right.”

EFL clubs are already able to live stream some of their games, those which don't fall inside the blackout window and aren't chosen for TV by the league's broadcast partner Sky Sports, via the iFollow platform and their own streaming services.

Potential consequences of scrapping the 3pm blackout

However, the scrapping of the blackout would enable those clubs to offer up live streams of all of their matches, vastly increasing their abilities to generate revenue via this model.

There would also be the potential for more lucrative traditional TV rights deals with linear broadcasters like Sky Sports and OTT platforms like Viaplay and Amazon Prime Video.

Nobody truly knows what the best approach will prove to be until it is thoroughly tested. Ending the blackout window could have a hazardous effect on matchday revenue. That downturn may be offset by revenue generated from streaming and TV rights.

For now, the EFL, its clubs and fans will have to wait until such a decision is taken to find out how this will change the football landscape in England.

Stick around for more football broadcasting news, and don't forget to check out our own legal, free football live streams.

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