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EFL confirms iFollow service changes with 3pm kick-offs gone to protect attendances

With the 2021-22 season just days away, the 72 clubs in the EFL are preparing to welcome back fans

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Championship fixtures: Day one, boxing day and final day

The EFL have confirmed its in-house streaming service, iFollow, has returned to a format similar to the one employed pre-Covid.

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The move is being made in order to protect returning matchday attendances, with clubs finally permitted to allow capacity crowds for the first time since March 2020.

The vast majority of fans have been locked out completely and as such have had to rely on he iFollow service, or their club-hosted alternative. The services allowed fans to stream games from home via their phone, laptop or tablet and proved to be a lifeline for supporters of the 72 members clubs.

In their absence, many clubs allowed fans to design cardboard cut-outs to populate empty stadiums

Temporary streaming laws were introduced that allowed clubs to brodcast games – providing a much-needed income albeit considerably less than normal gate receipts.

Fans not permitted to travel or enter grounds could still catch their sides’ match by paying a one-off fee per game or subscribing on a monthly or season basis.

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Now, with the UK finally out of lockdown and capacity limits scrapped, the EFL is placing a big emphasis on luring fans back to stadiums.

The knock-on effect of that is that iFollow now returns to its pre-pandemic format. That means games outside the usual Saturday 3pm slot will not be televised, although midweek matches will be – provided they are not being televised on Sky Sports.

An EFL spokesperson said: “With COVID capacity restrictions lifted and EFL fixtures set to be played in front of full crowds again for the first time since March 2020, the best place to see your team live in season 2021/22 is, of course, at the stadium.

“In respect of domestic streaming, the EFL will return to the position as was prior to the pandemic when the live broadcast or streaming of any match in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is prohibited between the hours of 2:45pm-5:15pm on Saturday afternoons.

“EFL Clubs will have the right to live-stream midweek matches on iFollow or Club equivalent service, with Sky Sports also able to stream the same Championship fixtures to subscribers across their Red Button interactive and digital services.”

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The iFollow service flourished during the pandemic. In the season just gone, 55 of the 72 clubs employed the service (The others used their own in-house platforms) with over 360,000 fans in 175 different countries tuning in.

The return of crowds will mean a scaling back on the amount of live games that are streamed

In total, revenue exceeded more than £42million thanks to streaming games.

It also saved clubs millions in refunds to existing season ticket holders.

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