How the Premier League fixture list is compiled

10 Jun 2018
Man City v Man Utd

Organising the 380 matches in the 2018/19 season is no simple business, as compiler Glenn Thompson explains

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Producing the full Premier League fixture list for 2018/19 is no random draw.

It 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 in England. 

The man behind the list is Glenn Thompson, of Atos, a veteran compiler who has collated about 60,000 matches since taking on the role in 1992. He explains how the list is compiled.

When does the work on the next season's fixture list start?
Glenn Thompson: At the start of the year. That's 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 in the dates for its competitions and what you are left with are the dates when you can play league and League Cup matches.

What is "sequencing"?
That's the methodology we use which is all about breaking the season down into a number of constituent parts, which are called sets. We break it down into five sets, which are reversed in the second half of the season.

Are there any rules you have to adhere to?
There are the "golden rules" of sequencing. In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures, two away, or the other way around.

Wherever possible a club will not have more than two home or away matches in a row, and will be home and away around FA Cup ties.

We will also strive to prevent any club from having to 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, especially if they are looking for points.

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

Do clubs from the same area play at home on the same day?
Most clubs will have a partner club they cannot clash with. There are the obvious ones – Manchester United and Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton – and then when you get into London it gets a bit more complex and less obvious.

What happens next?
Around March, the Premier League sends to each of its member clubs a form asking them to fill in three things: 1) Are there any dates you wish not to be at home? That is answered in conjunction with the local police. 2) Which club do you want to pair with? 3) Are there any teams you do not wish to play at home on Boxing Day?

Can you satisfy all of the requests?
From looking at the sequence we know how many of these dates we can meet. When we can't, the Premier League will ask the club which of the requests are most important.

We cannot accommodate everything but, on average, we satisfy higher than 85 per cent every year.

Also in this series

Part 1: The impossible job: Compiling the fixture list
Part 3: Can 2018/19 live up to last season's opening salvo?
Part 4: Arsenal the place for goals on opening day
Part 5: Who can match Ravanelli's dream debut?
Part 6: Can debutant managers start with a bang?
Part 7: Man Utd kings of the opening weekend
Part 8: Aguero eyes record for opening weekends
Part 9: Mourinho points the way for managers on opening day

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