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Virgin Media chief calls time on Premier League’s 3pm Saturday kick off blackout

Tom Mockridge has called on the Premier League allow live broadcasts of all football matches. 

The Virgin Media chief executive wants the organising body of the top flight English football league to lift restrictions that prevent broadcasts of Saturday games that kick off at 3pm. 

The blackout is in place ostensibly to protect match attendance of lower league clubs, who lack the larger incomes of bigger teams like Arsenal, which has charged £1,014 for its cheapest 2015-16 season ticket. 

Related: How can I watch Sky Sports and BT SportMockridge however believes that lifting this will see smaller clubs able to derive a greater share of income from TV broadcasters. Local match attendance could also be protected by introducing US-style regional lock outs, that would stop fans in, say, Liverpool watching 3pm Everton and Liverpool FC games, but allow them to watch Southampton and Bournemouth games. 

Speaking to the Guardian, Mockridge said: “The Premier League argues there is a consumer benefit in limiting the number of matches. We would argue the opposite.

“I am not criticising the Premier League. Richard Scudamore has done a terrific job for them but it’s up to Ofcom to act as the referee. Their primary aim is to protect the consumer. What is the consumer benefit in showing only 40 per cent of the games on TV?”

The cable company has some political skin in this football game. Pay TV and broadband rivals Sky and BT have snapped up broadcast rights to all of the available Premier League games for the next three seasons. While Virgin TV customers can sign up for both Sky Sports and BT Sport channels, the company has no sports channels of its own and is unable to bid for any more broadcast rights. 

Sky Sports scores rights to 3pm kick off highlights ‘til 2019At Virgin Media’s behest, telecoms regulator Ofcom is looking into revising the rules around ringfenced broadcasts. 

Sky has recently signed a deal with the Premier League which allows the company to show some of the 3pm games in Ireland – but not the UK

That fans in Northern Ireland could easily cross the border, legally watch a 3pm game in an Irish pub, before heading back north to watch other matches at home arguably makes the old rules harder to defend.  

Ofcom hasn’t said when it intends to publish a review into the way TV rights to Premier League games are sold in the UK. The regulator opened a case in November last year, after Virgin Media approached it way back in September 2014. 

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