LONDON: Internet broadcaster Eleven Sports has backed down – for the time being at least – in its dispute with the English football authorities writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The company had contravened the UEFA Saturday afternoon blackout rule aimed at protecting live match attendances by showing live action from the Spanish league.

It has now agreed, reluctantly, to abide by the letter of the law. Owner Andrea Radizzani had little option since he is also the owner of second tier club Leeds United and thus has an irreconcilable foot in both camps.

An Eleven statement said:

Out of respect for the wishes of our partners, we will for the time being no longer show matches during the Saturday afternoon blackout period.

We maintain our strong view that the rule, which dates back to the 1950’s, is unfit for the modern, digital era – particularly for overseas games which we hold the rights to.

The blackout is one of the biggest generators of piracy in the UK. These games are very easily accessed on illegal sites online and it is naïve to think that fans do not watch them because they are not shown on legitimate platforms, except betting sites.

It is irresponsible to leave the market in the hands of criminals.

Fans in the UK should have the freedom and the choice to watch these games legally through the official rights holder, as they do all over the world. Regrettably, intense pressure from stakeholders within the football establishment means that football fans across the country do not have this option.

With the best interests of football fans at heart, we are currently considering all legal and regulatory options, including the referral of the case to the appropriate authorities.

The statement pointed out that Article 48.2 of the UEFA Statutes prevents live football from being shown between 2.45pm – 5.15pm on a Saturday in the UK. It claimed that the FAs of England, Scotland and Montenegro were the only ones to apply the rule.