Rather than helping football fans and lower-league clubs, the ban on televising games that kick off at 3pm on a Saturday is actually making life harder for fans, and needlessly pushing up prices.
Here we look at why the ban on televised games at 3pm on a Saturday is no longer needed.
Half of Premier League to be televised from 2018
Today the Premier League announced that from the 2018-19 season, it would televise a minimum of 190 Premier league games. Half of all games in the season. However, it comes with an implicit catch – since these games cannot be televised at 3pm on a Saturday, it means that more top-flight games will need to be show at other times, which many fans see as a major inconvenience.
Remarkably, rather than welcoming the fact they can watch more of their teams’ games than ever, many fans see this as a further erosion of the game they knew and love. The Football Supporters Federation have expressed their concern and opposition to further increases.
The origins of the TV Blackout
The ban on televising games between the hours of 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday dates back to 1960 when it was adopted by Football League Chairman, to protect attendances at smaller clubs.
Three reasons the rationale is weak if not dead
The original argument was that fans would not attend lower league games if they could watch top-flight games on TV. But there are at least three reasons why this rationale is weak.
First, no other industry would be allowed to club together and protect each other from competition. Imagine if cinemas agreed that no-one could rent a film at home on a Wednesday night because it would damage local movie theaters.
Second, lower and non-league clubs would not be less viable. Many other countries do without the ban – this includes France, Germany, Italy and Spain. (the source is from 2011). Many lower league football clubs now generate millions in income. Some still survive by the skin of their teeth – but this rather reinforces the point that the viability of clubs in the lower divisions has not been cured by higher income alone.
Third, assuming that lower league football and televised premier league games are in direct competition, then the ultimate result for match-attending fans would be that ticket prices would fall as owners are forced to compete. This might reverse some of their rises over the past twenty years. A “National League South” club near me charges £15 a game. Perhaps it needs a bit more competition.
Tradition can obscures fans’ interests
Like so many things in football, the economic truth is obscured and the Premier League can take advantage of certain traditions (like the 3pm blackout) while ignoring others (like moving 3pm kick-offs).
The 3pm black-out rule is archaic and works against fans. Allowing games on television on a Saturday at 3pm would increase the number of games fans could see, lower prices for everyone, and give more people access to the game. See the light, it’s time to end the blackout.