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Eleven Sports bows to UK ‘blackout rule’ for Saturday football

Eleven Sports has agreed to stop airing live foreign football on Saturday afternoons, but has called for an end to the UK ‘blackout rule’ claiming it is outdated and encourages piracy.

The sports streaming service, which holds UK rights to LaLiga and Serie A football, cited “intense pressure from stakeholders within the football establishment” for its decision to not show matches during the Saturday blackout period “for the time being”.

However, it said it is considering “all legal and regulatory options,” claiming that the UEFA statute that prevents live football from being shown between 2.45pm – 5.15pm on a Saturday is “one of the biggest generators of piracy in the UK.”

“We maintain our strong view that the rule, which dates back to the 1950’s, is unfit for the modern, digital era – particularly for overseas games which we hold the rights to,” said Eleven Sports in a statement.

“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. Fans in the UK should have the freedom and the choice to watch these games legally through the official rights holder, as they do all over the world.”

Eleven Sports partnered with IMG in the UK and Ireland for the launch of its sports streaming service, which went live in August and is currently available online and via apps for iOS and Android.

The broadcaster, which broadcasts two channels through the online service – Eleven Sports 1 and Eleven Sports 2 – has said it is working hard to ensure distribution everywhere and is also in discussions with TV operators Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

The Football Associations of England, Scotland and Montenegro are the only ones to apply the Saturday afternoon broadcasting blackout rule.