Almost two years after it waded into the debate about an apparent lack of live football on TV, UK communications regulator Ofcom has decided it's time to tap out. The watchdog announced today that it will close its probe, which was carried out under the Competition Act 1998 and assessed whether the Premier League was restricting competition by limiting available matches, after the League decided to increase the number of live games from 168 to 190 from the 2019-20 season onwards.
With 22 more matches up for grabs during the next TV rights auction, Ofcom says its "resources could be used more effectively on other priorities to benefit consumers and competition." Virgin Media called for the Premier League to abolish the broadcasting blackout between 2:45pm and 5:15pm, similar to how broadcasters do in Germany, Spain and Italy, to counter a possible rise in cost of football subscriptions, even if it led to a reduction in attendances.
In its research, Ofcom found that a fifth of fans said they wanted to see more matches live. However, when the regulator polled match-going fans, it found that over two-thirds of respondents preferred the Saturday 3pm kick-off over any other Premier League match time. With a diverse set of opinions to consider, Ofcom believed it would take "significant further work" to reach a conclusion, so it decided to close its investigation altogether.