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National League to launch streaming service following Ryan Reynolds criticism

L-R: Rob McElhenney, Ryan Reynolds

The National League, the fifth tier of the English football pyramid, plans to launch a streaming service by the second half of the season.

The decision comes weeks after Ryan Reynolds, the celebrity co-owner of Welsh club AFC Wrexham, criticised the league for not allowing domestic or international streaming of matches. Reynolds called on the league to open talks with rights holder BT Sport to allow clubs to offer DTC games, with BT holding the rights until the end of the 2023/24 season and broadcasting one match per weekend.

Following this criticism, the National League has issued a statement confirming plans: “We have been working closely with [BT Sport] over the past few months to secure an agreement whereby non televised matches could be streamed on a league platform, also respecting the need to comply with Article 48 [The UK’s 3pm TV blackout] restrictions.

“The current broadcast rights, which includes streaming, are currently held by our broadcast partner BT Sport. We have been working closely with them over the past few months to secure an agreement whereby non televised matches could be streamed on a League platform, also respecting the need to comply with Article 48 restrictions [3pm blackout].

“BT Sport have been incredibly supportive in this vision, for which we are extremely grateful. Following Board approval, we will now be progressing matters to contractually cement that position.”

The statement goes on to detail that the league has “received proposals from a number of potential partners including market leaders” and that the board “unanimously approved all recommendations and have tasked the commercial committee to immediately progress this work, finalise contractual arrangements and confirm timelines.”

It concluded: “The ambition is to have a fully functioning platform launch in the second half of the season.”

Clubs in the English Football League (Championship, League One and League Two) offer non-televised matches to fans on a PPV basis either through the EFL’s iFollow platform or their own platforms. Select matches are available domestically, while clubs can stream all their non-televised matches internationally. 

It is believed that the National League would follow a similar model, with Wrexham (co-owned by Reynolds and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star and creator Rob McElhenney) drawing significant attention internationally. The club is the subject of the Hulu docuseries Welcome to Wrexham, available internationally on Disney+.

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