By Jonathan Easton
Sky Sports and the English Football League (EFL) have reached an agreement that will see all matches in English Football’s second, third and fourth domestic leagues broadcast live while fan access to stadiums is restricted.
Fans are unlikely to be allowed re-entry to matches until October at the earliest, and even then they will be at a limited capacity for the foreseeable future. Clubs in English football’s seventh tier and below are now allowed to permit attendees but spectator groups must be restricted to “discrete six-person gathering limits.”
As such, Sky Sports has said that it will broadcast 130 live EFL league matches throughout the upcoming season and all non-live broadcast matches will be available for streaming.
A statement from the EFL said: “Whilst the doors remain shut to fans, or with limited spectators allowed through the turnstiles, an arrangement exists whereby all matches that are not live on Sky Sports will be available to stream by Clubs on iFollow (or Club equivalent service), for a match pass price of £10.”
In its statement, the EFL emphasised that this is a “temporary measure that has only been put in place whilst clubs operate at a zero or reduced capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be subject to regular review with the first set for early October.”
EFL Chief Executive David Baldwin said: “There is no argument that attending live matches is what the League, its Clubs and fans want to see and, clearly, the overriding objective is to get supporters back into stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, this framework allows our Clubs, if they so wish, to reward their most loyal supporters by providing what we hope is only short-term access to watch their matches.
“It’s important that whilst the doors remain fully, or part shut, we ensure there is the ability for fans of all EFL Clubs to be able to gain access and watch their team and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sky Sports for their support in this matter. Collectively, it’s not our preferred situation but given the circumstances COVID has presented us it gives us a temporary option whilst we finalise our plans for fans returning.”
While the EFL is pushing forward with this, it remains unlikely that the top-tier Premier League will follow suit.
The league announced last week that it would make an extra 20 matches available to its broadcast partners, but it will not broadcast all the matches played behind closed doors as was the case with the condensed 2019/20 season end. A number of clubs had reportedly lobbied the league for permission to stream non-televised matches on their websites using the English Football League’s iFollow service, but rights holders Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon blocked the move. https://www.digitaltveurope.com