Fans of AFC Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion and Derby County will be among the first supporters to be offered the opportunity to watch coverage of their club playing away from home during midweek as part of a new broadcasting initiative by The Football League.
Following the installation of a fibre-optic network that will eventually link all club stadiums, matches can now be beamed back to grounds, live in HD, at a fraction of the previous cost. As a result, clubs may now enter into agreements that will enable the away club to broadcast the match for the benefit of its own fans.
Currently, this opportunity is open to clubs in the Championship with League 1 clubs being connected to the fibre-optic network during the course of the current season and League 2 clubs during 2015/16.
The first set of confirmed matches that will be broadcast (at the away club’s ground) will be:
Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Tues 19th August (7:45pm)
Derby County v AFC Bournemouth - Tues 30th September (7:45pm)
AFC Bournemouth v Derby County – Tues 10th February (7:45pm)
The Football League’s Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: “While our overriding priority will always be to get as many people as possible to attend matches in person, we also have to recognise that a huge number of fans are simply unable to make long journeys during midweek to watch their team.
“Thanks to the new fibre-optic network, the cost of broadcasting an away match to a club’s ground is vastly reduced, making this initiative economically viable for the first time. It will now give clubs the ability to cater for the significant number of supporters that would like to watch the match had they the opportunity.
“It will be up to the clubs involved in each match to determine whether it can be broadcast in this way and I would largely expect to see them entering into such arrangements in instances where they are playing a significant distance away from home during midweek or at matches where the away allocation is likely to sell out.”
It was hoped that the forthcoming away match against Norwich City would be one of the first games to be beamed back, but the home side declined Rovers' proposal.
"Obviously with the timing of the game on a week night and the distances involved, we would have wanted to help our fans by providing a beam back facility," said Director of Communications Alan Myers.
"Of course this would have been on a reciprocal basis for the return game at Ewood Park.
"However it is the home team's prerogative to refuse and we respect Norwich City's decision."
Clubs will only be permitted to broadcast matches played at 3.00pm on Saturday in exceptional circumstances, as they fall within the ‘blocked hours’ under UEFA regulations.
Football League clubs are being connected to ADI’s Live Venue fibre network and through its SportsHub operations centre, live match feeds are distributed to global broadcasters, football clubs, and other stakeholders.