Premier League breaks 3pm Blackout rule to televise Coronation Day football

The Blackout is one of football's most sacred rules, but it was disregarded on Coronation Sunday...

Arthur Ferridge
16th May 2023
The “3pm Blackout” is among English football’s most controversial rules. First enforced in the 1960s, it aims to protect the attendance figures of teams up and down the football pyramid by banning the Premier League’s 3pm kick-offs from TV broadcast, forcing fans to get off the couch and support their local non-league or lower division clubs.

While the Blackout is effective, there have often been conversations about scrapping it in the name of boosting Premier League sponsorship and viewership figures. Despite the eye-watering sums of money behind these movements, they have never succeeded. That is, until May 6, 2023, when Manchester City played host to Leeds United at The Etihad.

What was the reason for this, you might ask? The match had already been chosen for broadcast and was rescheduled due to the Coronation, meaning that it was moved to a 3pm kick-off after broadcast had already been planned. You can always count on the Royal Family to cause controversy!

This decision was of course met with backlash. If the Premier League were ready to break their own rules so blatantly, could this spell the end of the 3pm Blackout? What would this mean for England’s already financially struggling lower league teams? One must ask whether it was worth it. Would the multibillion-pound corporation that is Sky have lost so much from having to cancel one match broadcast? Unlikely.

When asked about plans to scrap the 3pm Blackout back in March, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters told the Financial Times that “We’ve been proponents of [the Blackout] for the entire Premier League and I don’t see that changing in the near term.” His defence of the Blackout is encouraging, but should football fans still be concerned that it was so readily sidelined by a rescheduled match?

While I find it worrying, I can’t see the Blackout ever being fully scrapped, unless an armada of particularly money hungry team owners band together against it in an attempt to line their pockets with slightly softer silk. Don’t get any ideas, Todd Boehly.

At this moment in time, proponents of the Blackout far outweigh its opponents, so don’t start making plans to stay in for a 3pm kickoff anytime soon. It has become an institution of British football, and if the Super League fiasco of 2020 taught us anything, it taught us that football fans don’t particularly like change, so don’t expect the Blackout to go anywhere anytime soon.

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AUTHOR: Arthur Ferridge
Head of Sport, 2023/24. @rthur_ferridge on Twitter/X

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