The English Football League (EFL), the organisers of three division below the Premier League in English club football, have faced strong opposition from the lower tier clubs after their fixtures were made available to be live streamed on Saturday afternoon.
A regulation enforced by the Football Association during the 1960s prohibits matches in England from being live broadcast between 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm on Saturday afternoons so that the stadium attendance and commercial interest of the clubs are not affected.
EFL has been accused of “deliberately misleading” clubs after it allowed non-televised matches from League One and League Two – the third and fourth tiers – to be streamed online overseas, while games that do not take place on Saturday afternoons have been live streamed in the United Kingdom for a pay-per-match fee via the EFL’s iFollow platform.
After the chairman of League One club Accrington Stanley, Andy Holt, raised his voice over the issue, it came to the surface that the regulation does not apply during international weekends.
The clubs were surprised to see that the supporters in the UK and Ireland were able to watch live coverage of Football League action – either on the iFollow service or their respective club maintained alternatives during this weekend’s round of matches.
“This kills our income and destroys atmosphere. It was only international viewers when we considered it first. Then they added Tuesday night matches,” Holt said on Twitter. “The option to join with five international weekends has never been mentioned by @EFL. They deliberately misled us. They know what they’re doing, don’t worry about that.”
A statement from Accrington further declared: “Accrington Stanley majority shareholder Andy Holt is angry and dismayed at the Football League’s decision to allow the streaming of 3pm Saturday fixtures to the domestic market during the international break.”
“The EFL is there to represent its 72 member clubs, and Mr Holt feels that Article 48 of the Uefa statutes (which deals with broadcast regulations) was not discussed at the summer conference in Portugal, with no debate taking place regarding any exceptions to the existing blackout on domestic coverage of Saturday afternoon fixtures.”
EFL subsequently issued a statement to clear the air around the controversial regulation: “The EFL is very aware of the importance of protecting the live matchday experience and will always champion supporters making their way through turnstiles as the best way to watch live football, but (streaming) is an added option for those fans who can’t make the game in person.”
“The EFL needs to understand the full value of the streaming opportunity to make informed decisions and the matches taking placetomorrow will help determine the future direction of travel …The review will be shared and discussed with clubs.”