The FA is reportedly giving serious consideration to suspending the Saturday 3pm broadcast blackout rule should the coronavirus outbreak force games to be played in empty stadiums.
The legislation makes it illegal for UK broadcasters to air live coverage of domestic or foreign football matches kicking off between 2:45pm and 5:15pm on Saturday afternoons as a means of maintaining healthy attendances thoughout the football leagues.
However, should matches be closed to the public, The Times reports that pay-TV broadcasters Sky Sports and BT Sport, who hold rights to Premier League football, could be asked to show games kicking off at 3pm UK time for free – but block their signal into bars and pubs to further avoid mass congregation.
Additionally, all matches involving Championship, League One and League Two clubs could be made available on the English Football League’s (EFL) iFollow streaming service.
A number of top flight football leagues across Europe have taken action against the coronavirus; Spain, Italy, Germany and France have all limited or cancelled mass gatherings altogether, whilst a number of Champions League and Europe League matches will be played in empty stadiums.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City has become the first Premier League fixture to be called-off as a result of the virus crisis. The match was due to be screened on Sky Sports tonight (March 11th) but has been postponed because Olympiacos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has contracted the COVID-19 virus. His team played Arsenal 13 days ago, and he met with several players – who are consequently now in self-isolation.