FA set to AXE 3pm blackout on showing Premier League kick-offs if coronavirus forces games behind closed doors – The Sun03/09/2020
THE FA will axe the 3pm blackout if matches are forced behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to reports.
Legislation currently bans three o'clock matches from being televised, in a bid to protect attendances – particularly at EFL games.
But if fans can no longer attend matches, it is likely that the blackout will be lifted.
And according to The Times, Sky and BT could be forced to air games for FREE – as the government desperately tries to prevent big crowds from congregating to watch their teams.
Senior officials are wary that fans no longer able to attend their side's game, may just congregate at the pub instead.
But with medical experts saying that the virus is more likely to spread in packed pubs than open-air stadia – local boozers would be blocked from screening matches.
The Times were told by a source from the FA talks: "It makes sense to remove the blackout but what we don’t want to do is create a new problem by just moving those crowds from the stadiums to the pubs.”
Sky and BT have been told that they would have to block their signal from boozers – which could send pubs into disarray, with the cost of a subscription to Sky Sports for a pub £10,000-a-year.
This included a discussion of how staging sporting events behind closed doors could work in practice, should the situation change and become necessary.
A spokesperson for the government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "Senior government officials chaired a constructive meeting of sports and broadcast partners, as part of sensible contingency planning in relation to Covid-19.
"This included a discussion of how staging sporting events behind closed doors could work in practice, should the situation change and become necessary.
"However based upon the current scientific advice from the Government's medical experts there is no rationale to close or cancel sporting events as things stand.
"We will remain in regular dialogue with sports governing bodies and broadcasters, ensuring they are in receipt of the most up to date guidance from the health authorities."
The EFL are expected to screen games through the iFollow subscription service – usually blocked for UK residents on a Saturday.
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc with sporting calendars across the globe.
Initially it was just in Asia, with the Chinese Super League and the Asian Champions League among the first competitions affected.
But the panic has now well and truly spread to Europe, with two of this weekend's three Six Nations matches having been postponed.
All sporting events in Italy, meanwhile, will be played behind closed doors until April 3, which lead to the bizarre scenes involving Cristiano Ronaldo clapping an empty stadium over the weekend.
Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League match with Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night will also be played behind closed doors.
But there is good news for Spurs fans, as they WILL be allowed into their second leg clash with RB Leipzig in Germany tomorrow.
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