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Eleven Sports challenge UK soccer blackout after Serie A deb
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:35pm

Eleven Sports chose to abide by United Kingdom blackout laws on the opening weekend of the Serie A season but stated its intention to challenge the Football Association (FA) rules regarding live broadcast.

Owing to longstanding regulations, the service did not live broadcast the first 15 minutes of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus debut against Chievo, which kicked off at 5pm BST. The pre-match warmups and coin toss were both shown live before the action was hidden until the conclusion of the blackout.

Instead, a message ran on the screen, declaring that a regulation enforced by the Football Association (FA) meant that no live soccer can be broadcast to a British audience between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday.

The statement, which was broadcast with the match’s commentary ongoing behind it, stated: ‘No other countries outside the UK and Montenegro apply this rule. We disagree with it and we will continue to challenge it with the best interests of our customers at heart.’

The Saturday afternoon embargo on live coverage was introduced in the 1960s, with club owners fearful that live televised soccer on a Saturday afternoon would affect ticket sales and attendances. The regulation is part of Uefa statutes but is optional, with only the English, Scottish and Montenegrin associations currently enforcing the rule.

Eleven, the Andrea Radrizzani-owned sports channels and over-the-top (OTT) platform, acquired the UK rights to Italian soccer’s top flight this year, taking over from BT Sport, who had previously broadcast the league in the UK. The company has also purchased the UK rights to La Liga, the highest tier of Spanish soccer, with Facebook being announced as Eleven’s free-to-air partner in the UK. At least one match a week from Serie A and La Liga will be shown live on the social media platform.

The OTT broadcaster did, however, experience problems as it streamed golf’s PGA Championship to UK viewers in early August. Technical issues meant that the online stream often buffered, while further issues meant that many viewers missed Brooks Koepka’s winning putt on the final evening.

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