Channel 4 (C4), the UK free-to-air (FTA) commercial broadcaster, has today (April 29) announced that it has secured rights to 20 games featuring England’s men’s soccer national team until 2024, marking the first time the national team will feature live on the channel.

The deal runs for the next two years, covering all of England’s qualifiers for the UEFA 2024 European Championships, all games the team plays in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League (starting in June), and every international friendly they contest.

It means that every England fixture for the next two years will be covered FTA. The FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year is not covered by today’s announcement, but a deal for that tournament has already been struck jointly by the BBC and ITV fellow UK FTA broadcasters.

England’s qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup and for the last edition of the Euros were shown live domestically by ITV, while Nations League games during the previous cycle were covered in the UK by pay-TV heavyweight Sky Sports.

C4 will cover six live England fixtures (all from the Nations League) this year, with the opening game against Hungary on June 4 marking the first time action from that UEFA tournament is covered on free TV in the UK (as well as the first time C4 covers a live England men’s game).

For the 2024 Euros themselves, which will take place in Germany between June 14 and July 14 that year, UEFA and its national teams' tournaments partner agency CAA Eleven began the media rights tender process in August last year, but as yet no deal has been struck.

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Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive, has now said: “I am so delighted that we have thee matches on the channel, which further reinforces our reputation as a top-quality sports broadcaster.”

Ian Katz, the chief content officer at the broadcaster, added: “This deal shows that C4 can compete for some of the biggest properties in sport and will bring substantial new audiences to our award-winning slate of original programming.”

C4 has not been a major player in terms of top-tier soccer rights in recent years, with its acquisition of UK rights to the 2022 edition of the FIFA Club World Cup tournament earlier this year very much an outlier in terms of its overall sports rights strategy.

Across other sports over the last 12 months, however, the broadcaster covered the women’s final of last year’s US Open tennis tournament (won by the UK's Emma Raducanu), as well as the last race of the 2021 Formula 1 prestigious motor racing series.

Both of these deals were sub-licensing agreements on a one-off basis, with the channel also covering action from the recently-completed Tokyo Paralympic Games in February.

Its current sporting rights portfolio includes rugby league’s Super League, electric motor racing’s Formula E, and the US-based mixed martial arts series, Professional Fighters League.

The C4 deal, meanwhile, is the second major rights tie-up struck by UEFA in the UK this week.

On Wednesday (April 27), Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT), the European media giant, secured exclusive rights in the UK – where it will launch later this year – to multiple top-tier national team soccer competitions featuring the ‘Home Nations’ of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, between 2024-28.

Starting in two years’ time, Viaplay subscribers in the UK will be able to see “at least 40 exclusive live matches” from the aforementioned men’s national teams in the qualifiers for both the World Cup (2026) and Euros (2028), as well as games from the UEFA Nations League (2024-25 and 2026-27) and international friendlies featuring those sides.

The number of games will come to at least 40 for each nation, NENT has said, with over 800 matches from that four-year European soccer cycle to be covered in total. The deal also includes the UK rights to qualifying and Nations League matches played by all other European teams (with the exception of England) in those competitions.