On Saturday, the highly anticipated Clasico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid won’t be televised in the United Kingdom. The reason behind this unfortunate situation is a law that aims to protect stadium attendance.
Many English football fans who were eager to witness the talents of Jude Bellingham (20 years old) in action during the Clasico might be disappointed to learn that the match won’t be broadcasted legally in the UK. Since 1960, a law has prohibited British television channels from airing live football matches on Saturdays between 2:45 PM and 5:15 PM local time. This law, which is in effect until 2029, was put in place to encourage attendance at Premier League stadiums.
The current version of the law, which was revised in 1990 when Sky Sports secured a major broadcasting deal, stipulates that the blackout period begins 15 minutes before kick-off and ends half an hour after the match, allowing supporters to travel to and from the stadium. During this blackout period, fans who don’t attend the matches have the option to follow the game on the radio or watch TV programs that provide commentary and updates on the scores.
The CEO of La Liga in the UK hopes for a revision of the law. Since the highly anticipated clash in La Liga is scheduled for 4:15 PM local time, it will be 3:15 PM in the UK at kick-off. This falls right in the middle of the prohibited broadcasting period, making the televised coverage of the match illegal.
“We are disappointed that British fans won’t be able to watch the Clasico this weekend due to the UK’s self-imposed rule at 3 PM on Saturdays,” expressed Keegan Pierce, the CEO of La Liga in the UK and Ireland. “While we fully support measures to promote stadium attendance, we believe the blackout should be limited to the televised coverage of domestic football, not foreign competitions,” he added.
Although debatable, this law undeniably serves its purpose, as the Premier League stadiums consistently boast high attendance rates every year. This season, Crystal Palace has the lowest attendance rate in the league*, with Selhurst Park being filled to an average of 94.7% capacity! In comparison, only three clubs in Ligue 1 (Lens, Brest, Strasbourg) achieve this figure.
While it is unfortunate for British football fans to miss out on the Clasico, it is important to recognize the intention behind the law: to ensure strong attendance at domestic matches. Perhaps in the future, there will be discussions to revise the law to accommodate international competitions like the Clasico, allowing fans to enjoy these highly anticipated clashes from the comfort of their homes.
*Note: The statistics mentioned in the article are fictional and used for illustrative purposes only.