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How the Premier League fixture list is compiled

15 Jun 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United

Find out the work that takes place to schedule the 380 matches in a Premier League season

The release of the Premier League fixtures on 16 June will be eagerly anticipated as fans discover when their team will be playing their opponents in 2022/23. 

Producing the full fixture list is the result of a meticulous and painstaking process that lasts almost half a year and involves the scheduling of 2,036 matches across the top four divisions. 

Fixture-list compiler Glenn Thompson, of Atos, an international IT services company, explains how it all works. 

When does the work on compiling the next season's fixtures start? 
For me it is at the start of the year when I get the playing dates from the Premier League. The whole thing is built up, putting in the international dates from FIFA, then the European club competitions. Then the Football Association adds the dates for its competitions. You’re left with the dates when you can play league and League Cup matches. 

We also consult fan representatives, from the Football Supporters' Federation, and other stakeholders, to take on board their views. 

Around March, the Premier League sends to its clubs a form asking questions such as whether there are there any dates they wish not to be at home - which is answered in conjunction with the local police - and whether there are any teams they do not wish to play at home on Boxing Day. 

How has the FIFA 2022 World Cup affected things this time round? 
The early start to both the Premier League and EFL means we have encountered more date requests from clubs than usual. The various start, break and end dates between the leagues has also posed a few sequencing problems. 

Luis Diaz, Liverpool, and Demarai Gray, Everton
The fixture compilers must ensure Liverpool and Everton's home matches do not clash

How are the fixtures compiled?
We start when we know the composition of each division, so after the last Football League playoff, which was on 29 May. We place each club in a pairing grid, which defines the dates they will be at home. 

For every date in the season, the fixture computer knows which clubs are at home and who are away and then it will mix them up randomly to determine the matches. 

Are there any rules you have to adhere to? 
In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures, two away or the other way around. A team will never have more than two home or away matches in a row, and, wherever possible, you will be home and away around FA Cup ties. 

A club will never start or finish the season with two home or two away matches because it would be unfair for a team to finish with two aways,  

Around the Christmas period, if you are at home on Boxing Day you will be away on New Year's Day or an equivalent date. We also try to maintain a Saturday home-away sequence throughout the season wherever possible. 

Do you consider travel issues?
Yes. We look at whether we have clubs from the same area travelling on the same train lines across the Football League and the Premier League on the same day. We want to avoid having "pinch points" on the rail and road network. We also tell the computer to try to minimise travel on Boxing Day and New Year's Day or an equivalent date. 

Father Christmas at Aston Villa
Compilers look to minimise travel for fans on Boxing Day and New Year's Day

Can clubs from the same area play at home on the same day? 
Most clubs will have a partner club with whom they cannot clash, such as Manchester United and Manchester City, or Liverpool and Everton. In London it gets a bit more complex and less obvious. 

Do last season's fixtures influence the 2022/23 list at all? 
If there are issues with a club's fixtures one year, you try to take that into account the next year. You try to ensure if there is an undesirable set of fixtures, they don't get it two seasons in a row.  

What happens if there are any problems? 
If we have got any issues, we might have to go back and start again to produce a different set of fixtures. I'm reviewing the fixtures all the time to ensure other things can be met. 

In the 2012/13 season, for example, there was a requirement from the Metropolitan Police not to play high-profile matches until after 8 September because of the Olympics and Paralympics. 

How is the fixture list checked? 
Traditionally, the Premier League, the Football League and Atos representatives will review the fixtures over a number of days, looking at every date in the season to make sure that wherever possible we have met everything we have been asked to. 

The computer is very useful during the review because if we do not want a certain fixture on a particular date, it will give us alternative dates for that fixture. It can be that changing one match requires 40 other changes. 

Is it the impossible job? 
You can't satisfy everyone.  It's a compromise across all clubs; you can't do anything to favour any one club.  

There are 2,036 matches across the Premier League and Football League over a nine-month period, and the ideal solution is to ensure that those matches can all be played when scheduled. 

Get the 2022/23 fixtures as soon as they come out by downloading the Premier League's digital calendar 

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