The Saturday 3pm blackout: Why aren't all Premier Leagues games broadcast on television in the UK?

Premier League
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Upset that you aren't able to watch any live football at 3pm on a Saturday? You have a Burnley chairman from the 1960s to thank for that... sort of.

Games such as Liverpool's thrilling 3-3 draw against Brighton, Manchester City's 4-2 comeback win against Crystal Palace, and Fulham's stoppage time 3-2 win versus Brentford have all taken place at 3pm on a Saturday. However, the UK's 3pm blackout meant that the games couldn't be shown live on television in this country.

For decades now, it's been enshrined in British law that no football played between 2:45pm and 5:15pm on a Saturday can be broadcast live on television. 

The idea behind the blackout was that of Burnley's Bob Lord, who lobbied support from his fellow Football League chairmen 60 years ago that televised matches on a Saturday afternoon would negatively impact football attendances - and thus, income. The only time since that this sanctity has been breached was during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which fans couldn't get to games. 

In the modern day, the thinking is that even the broadcasting of big matches played on a Saturday during this slot could deter fans from going to their local club. In recent times, even El Clasico has fallen foul of the blackout, with British viewers missing the 15 minutes of action of several iterations due to a 5pm Saturday UK kick-off time.

The blackout is not without its criticism. There are those that claim that it's an archaic law that they'd like to see the back of.

Given how expensive ticket prices are, many fans argue that it's unfair not to provide a more reasonable alternative to watch the game, in an era in which most games are on TV. Clubs have more fans spread across the country these days and not just the thousands who would have been to the ground every week in the 1960s and '70s, after all. 

TV GUIDE Premier League live streams: How to watch every game from anywhere in the world

And then there's the argument that all of these 3pm matches are available anyway: just via illegal streaming sites. If the Premier League were to make these games readily available to fans, they could not only ensure better control of their product but demand more money for it.

Ultimately, there are no plans to boycott the blackout from the FA, the Premier League and the Football League. Cristiano Ronaldo's return to the Premier League - in a 3 o'clock kickoff slot on a Saturday afternoon - will only be available to those in the ground to witness it. For the rest of us? There's Match of the Day

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.