UK government pushes Premier League to televise all behind-closed-doors matches

The UK government is urging the English Premier League to ensure all matches are televised during the 2020-21 season so long as fans remain unable to attend.

Such a move would extend the consensus reached by the Premier League and its domestic broadcasters during the ‘Project Restart’ initiative, which saw all 92 remaining matches last season broadcast domestically once football resumed after the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Our focus is on working with the football authorities, safety and medical experts to get fans back in stadia as quickly as possible.

“It is for the Premier League and its broadcast partners to come to an agreement on screening matches, however we urge them to follow the spirit of Project Restart and listen to clubs’ loyal fans and consider what can be achieved in the meantime.”

Premier League chairmen are due to decide on the matter at a meeting today (Thursday). The clubs had already agreed to make 20 more live matches available to domestic broadcaster, but that still means 160 of the 380 matches are not currently due to be televised.

The English Football Association (FA) has already paved the way for all matches to be shown by agreeing to retain the lifting of the ‘3pm blackout’ rule until fans are allowed back in stadiums. It is envisaged that a limited number of fans could return to matches from the start of October.

Incumbent pay-television broadcasters Sky and BT Sport are willing to screen all the matches, reports The Times. However, the clubs are concerned about potential rebates that would be payable to international broadcasters if kick-off times were moved.

Last season, UK public-service broadcaster the BBC showed four live Premier League matches, marking the first time it had shown any live top-tier English football action since the 1987-88 season. Online retail giant Amazon also showed its four extra matches on a free-to-view basis. Sky made 25 matches available on its free-to-air digital terrestrial channel PickTV.

The new Premier League season is scheduled to start on September 12.

The English Football League has already reached a deal with Sky whereby all matches not shown by the broadcaster will be available to stream on the EFL’s iFollow platform or clubs’ equivalent services for a match pass price of £10 (€11/$13).

Season-ticket holders of Championship, League One and League Two clubs will be provided with access to all home matches, subject to the agreement of the club. Sky is set to show 130 live EFL matches during the 2020-21 season.