Why are so many Premier League games not on TV?

One thing that frustrates a lot of Premier League fans who do not attend matches is that not every game in a weekend is televised. There are only a few Premier League  games over a weekend that are on TV in the UK. But why is this the case?

Why are so many Premier League games not on TV? Not all Premier League games are televised in the UK due to either the Saturday 3pm blackout rule or the Premier League not wanting to sell the rights to every game. All English Premier League games are broadcast elsewhere in the world.

There are two key reasons why a Premier League game may not be on TV. The first is one of the oldest rules in football and it is known as the Saturday 3pm blackout rule. Bob Lord was the chairman of Burnley Football Club in the 1960s and he was the one who pitched the idea of the 3pm blackout rule. 

The idea behind the rule was to ensure that fans would still go to watch live games and that attendance would not be hurt by having more games being shown on TV. It was a rule that was accepted by the other chairman of football clubs in England and so it was put into law that any football played between 2:45 pm and 5:15 pm on a Saturday, the traditional slot for English League Football, cannot be broadcast in the UK. 

This is why you never see any of the Premier League 3 pm kick-offs on UK TV. The idea behind the rule was to protect teams that rely more on gate fees than they do on broadcasting fees. That rule is still in place today and extends to the rest of the English Football League to keep in-person attendance high. 

But there are also usually multiple games on Sundays and if there are more than one Premier League game played at the same time then one won’t be broadcast. This is also sometimes the case when the Premier League has midweek fixtures. 

This is not down to the law from decades ago. Instead, this is part of a decision made by the Premier League to not sell the UK broadcasting rights to all of their games. In a season the Premier League has 380 games across 38 game weeks. Out of those they usually only sell the UK broadcasting rights to around 200, with that number rising over the last few years. 

A lot of the time a Premier League weekend will not broadcast over half of the games on show. The exact reasons behind this are not something that the Premier League has been particularly clear on, instead, we have to go off of the testimony of the former Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore. 

Scudamore made the point that the Premier League did not want to dilute the market by putting all of their games on TV in the UK. This is a rule that we have started to see ease as more and more games are being put onto TV. Amazon’s introduction to Premier League broadcasting has meant that for the first time, we have seen all games of a Premier League game week broadcast. 

Covid prevented an open tender for the current slate of broadcast rights, they simply repeated the deals already in place with Amazon, Sky, BT and the BBC. When the tender is next due, we may see all games played outside of the Saturday 3pm slot broadcast on UK TV.

Will the UK 3pm blackout rule be removed in football?

The 3pm blackout rule dictates that no football games taking place between 2:45pm and 5:15pm can be broadcast on TV. However, there is talk about this rule being scrapped as more games in the UK are being broadcast than ever before. 

In terms of the Premier League, a change in the blackout rule will not take place until at least 2025 as this is when the Premier League TV deal expires. The Premier League is always looking to expand their revenue from broadcasting and the last decade has seen Amazon and BT Sport buy into broadcasting the league. 

It seems likely that the EFL will scrap the rule in the future although an exact date of when this will happen is yet to be determined. However, it seems like the appetite to get rid of this rule does not extend to the Premier League, with current Chief Executive Richard Masters making that point clear. 

Masters was clear that the Premier League would continue to back the protected window and it is still seen as having more benefits than not for the Premier League. The Premier League believes that having all of their games on TV would make the product less valuable as well as possibly hurting attendance for all Premier League teams. 

If the Premier League do eventually want to scrap the 3pm blackout rule then there will be a lot of suitors for the extra games. Broadcasting services like DAZN, Apple TV and Netflix have all been highlighted as potential suitors to the new games as they are also targets for the EFL who look likely to scrap the rule. 

But it still seems unlikely that the Premier League will scrap the blackout rule even if they have a lot of broadcasters who would happily pay to show those games. 

Is there a 3pm blackout rule for the Premier League in the US? 

The USA does not have the same rules around games being played between 2:45pm and 5:15pm and so they have a different TV deal with the Premier League.

In the USA, fans are able to watch all 380 games of the Premier League season, with the league happy to sell the TV rights of all of the games in a season to the US. NBC is the main way that US fans are able to watch the Premier League and they can also watch every Premier League game on Peacock Premium. 

The Premier League does not have the same 3pm blackout rule in the USA because this does not have any effect on the attendance of the Premier League teams. Fans based in the US will not be going to many Premier League games and so showing all 380 Premier League games on TV in the USA will have no effect on Premier League attendance.

This is very similar to the system used in Brazil, China and India, as these will also have minimal effect on Premier League attendance. 

How can I watch Saturday 3pm Premier League games in the UK?

The best and most helpful way an English football fan can watch Premier League (or any league) football at 3pm on Saturday is to buy a ticket for a match and go and scream your lungs out on the terraces! However, if that isn’t available to you, there are ways around the 3pm black out.

With the internet shrinking the world and online streaming becoming more and more popular among broadcasters it is possible to access all 380 Premier League games via the internet.

Using a VPN it is possible to let your device believe you are in almost any location in the world. Once you have a VPN set up it is possible to access live streamed Premier League games from any country in the world.

Of course, you will also need to have an account for these Streaming Services and most that carry the Premier League require a paid subscription. Again, this is something easily overcome with the use of a VPN.

One of the simplest ways to ensure you have access to all 380 Premier League games is to use the Australian Streaming Service “Optus Sports” with a bit of VPN magic, you can stream premium quality Premier League matches for a pretty low fee.


Life long Portsmouth Fan and have followed football since 1993. Is there a better sport on earth?

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