Eleven Sports has agreed to stop showing Saturday afternoon Spanish LaLiga matches in the UK “for the time being”, but is considering all legal and regulatory options to overturn the ‘3pm blackout’.
Eleven, which operates as a streaming platform in the UK and Ireland, has shown two LaLiga matches during the blackout, which runs from 2.45pm to 5.15pm each Saturday in England and Scotland.
It said it would no longer show the matches “out of respect for the wishes of our partners”, but doubled down on its challenge to the blackout.
In a statement released at 3pm this afternoon, Eleven said: “The blackout is one of the biggest generators of piracy in the UK. These games are very easily accessed on illegal sites online and it is naïve to think that fans do not watch them because they are not shown on legitimate platforms, except betting sites. It is irresponsible to leave the market in the hands of criminals.”
The blackout rule has been honoured by UK broadcasters since 1964, but has no solid basis in UK or EU law. It is grounded in Article 48.2 of Uefa’s statutes, which allows football associations to ban football broadcasts in a two-and-a-half-hour window of their choosing.
The rule has been upheld by the English Football Association in order to protect live attendances and promote participation in amateur football. The European Court of Justice has already cast doubt on whether this reasoning is based on empirical evidence, and experts have told TV Sports Markets that the rule could be scrapped should Eleven challenge the blackout in court.
In its 2012 judgement on the cases of FA Premier League v QC Leisure and Others, and Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services, ECJ advocate general Juliane Kokott said: “It has not been adequately shown to the Court that the closed periods [blackouts] actually encourage attendance at and participation in matches,” and that “there is evidence to refute this claim”.
Eleven said it is considering referring the case “to the appropriate authorities”.