Football: Premier League clubs may play Saturday evening games from 2019

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores their second goal against Arsenal on Feb 2, 2016.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores their second goal against Arsenal on Feb 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - English Premier League matches could kick off as late as 7.45pm (2.45am, Singapore time) from the 2019-20 season as part of plans to broadcast at least half of the 380 games live on television, according to a report in The Times.

The plan was proposed after TV broadcaster Sky reported that television viewership for league matches fell 14 per cent last season, while subscriptions to their mobile video service and online live video provider rose by 31 per cent.

"As we anticipated, the way customers engage with live sport is changing, with strong growth in newer, digital-first platforms," a Sky spokesman told The Times.

Supporters are likely to oppose the change as travelling to games will become harder compared to the current 3pm kick-offs, but the league's growing international popularity is expected to provide incentive to showcase more matches.

"The Premier League is more popular than ever due to the fantastic football put on by clubs and the commitment of fans," a spokesman for the league told The Times.

"In the season 2016-17, stadiums were a record 96.5 per cent full, unique broadcasting reach in the UK was up 2 per cent on the previous season, and matches were available to watch in one billion homes in 188 countries."

Broadcasters can submit their bids for domestic rights by the end of the year and the final decision is expected to be made next February.

Sky and broadcasting competitor BT Sport acquired domestic broadcasting rights worth £5.14 billion (S$9.01 billion) for three years in 2015.