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El Clasico coverage to leave United Kingdom TV viewers frustrated


Around this time of year, Sky Sports begin to churn out their adverts for festive football, delineating the plethora of fascinating fixtures they’ll be showing over the Christmas period to viewers in the the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately for those subscribers that enjoy the broadcaster’s wide-ranging coverage of La Liga, this Saturday’s Clasico showdown between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou will not be one of them.

It’s a frustrating scenario for lovers of Spanish football on British soil. After all, el Clasico is so significant that even those who don’t routinely tune in for La Liga matches will sample an occasion that contains the finest players in world football. It’s a fixture that transcends football.

While the obsession with the Clasico is relatively new phenomenon, the reason why the game won’t be broadcast live on Sky or elsewhere is due to a rule that was put in place during the 1960s that still stands today.

The Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League have all agreed that no football should be televised live between 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. in the United Kingdom in order to ensure games are well attended. It’s an embargo that Saturday’s Clasico, set for a 3:15 p.m. kickoff, falls slap bang in the middle of.

It’s not something fans of Spanish football in the U.K. have had to endure too frequently in recent seasons, with the match typically kicking off later on on a Saturday or Sunday. And it’s understandable that the La Liga organizers have chosen 3:15 p.m., as the match will be exposed to a clutch of different time zones across the globe. It means residents of a lot of countries catering for the game won’t have to rise at ridiculous o’clock.

Even so it’s a blackout supporters have experience with in the past, sort of. In 2014, they had to watch Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague narrate the opening 15 minutes of the contest, which so happened to be Luis Suarez’s first appearance in a Barcelona jersey, as the match kicked off at 5 p.m.

But this Saturday, there’ll be no legal means of watching Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and co. look to oust Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar. For those with the temperament to avoid the scoreline by shutting off their phones and avoiding social media, there’ll be a repeat of the match shown two hours after it kicks off on Sky Sports.

It’ll be galling for fans, especially given the game will be broadcast in over 100 countries across the globe. And it raises a wider point as to whether or not this spell on a Saturday should remain sacred of whether broadcasters should be allowed to show game.

Match: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Kickoff: Saturday, 10:15am ET

Looking to watch Barcelona vs. Real Madrid online from your work, home or on the go? If you live in the USA, you can get a free 24-hour trial to fuboTV.

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A 2011 study cited by Sam Morshead of the MailOnline from the European Court of Justice suggested that televising games during this slot would have no detrimental impact on attendances at matches. “It has not been adequately shown to the Court that the closed periods actually encourage attendance at and participation in matches,” said ECJ attorney Julian Kokott.

Indeed, while plenty who have a season ticket for Premier League clubs enjoy Spanish football, few would decline the chance to attend a game involving their team because of El Clasico. Additionally, kickoff times for La Liga fixtures are left late before they’re announced in full, meaning ticket purchasing plans couldn’t be made too far in advance.

The game has moved on from since those regulations were in place too, meaning a blanket ban on matches on the box doesn’t mean fans will not be able to keep track of the clashes.

For games that kickoff between the time period, illegal streams are easily accessible for those who know where to look for them, while social media is abuzz with clips of goals and key incidents from matches shortly after they’ve happened anyway.

No longer does this television blackout completely prevent supporters from following the action. Perhaps, with that in mind, a little more transparency would be beneficial for all parties, especially when it comes to games from overseas that’ll have little bearing on the Premier League.

Ultimately, the consumers miss out. Sky Sports is not cheap to purchase and it’s synonymous with quality coverage when it comes to Spanish football; overall, they do a tremendous job. But unfortunately, with their hands tied by the regulations aforementioned, without the world’s biggest game on its agenda the product feels incomplete.

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