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What is the "black-out" rule in football and is it lawful?

What is the
Wednesday, 06 October 2021 By Alex Haffner, Thomas Edwards, Daniel King

This article was originally published on 19 December 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes, otherwise known as the “black-out rule”, exists to protect football fans and players from the effect of competing with live coverage of football games. The rule has been subject of much debate [1] since it was introduced, and it has come back into sharp focus during the Coronavirus pandemic and again more recently when Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut for Manchester United in their Premier League fixture against Newcastle United was held at 3pm on a Saturday and was not broadcast live on UK television.

So what exactly does the regulation state and why is it in place? Is the rule still relevant and do the arguments used to justify it still apply, or is the rule vulnerable to a legal challenge under competition law? This article examines:

  • The legal basis of the rule, and the reasons for its introduction;
  • Previous legal challenges and reviews of the rule;
  • The application of the rule during the Coronavirus pandemic;
  • The relevance of the rule in 2021; and
  • The likely outcome of any future competition law challenge.

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Written by

Alex Haffner

Alex Haffner

Alex is a Partner in the Commercial, Sports and IP Team at Fladgate LLP, specialising in the sports, technology and media sectors.

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Thomas Edwards

Thomas Edwards

Associate, Fladgate 

Thomas is an associate currently sitting in the CSI Corporate department.

Thomas graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in English and a master’s degree in Law before going on to complete his LPC at the University of Law.
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Daniel King

Daniel King

Daniel is a trainee solicitor in the Sports Business Group at Fladgate LLP. Daniel graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in History prior to completing the GDL and LPC with MSc in Law, Business and Management at the University of Law, Manchester.

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