With the World Cup in a mere matter of hours, it may seem like discussing the Premier League is putting the cart before the horse.
But, in reality, the start of the new season is only a handful of weeks away and the fixtures are released tomorrow.
Although it may seem like top-flight officials throw the 20 club names into a hat and draw lots 38 times, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
In actual fact, it’s a highly complicated process that begins in the hub of the Premier League’s office at the turn of every year. And it isn’t finalised for another six months.
The bulk of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of fixture-list compiler Glenn Thompson, of Atos, an international IT company.
Thompson uses a methodology called sequencing which breaks the season down into five sets which are then reversed in the second half of the campaign.
But first, they must set out dates. And that’s achieved by first filling in the international dates set out by FIFA, followed by the European club competitions, then the FA competition dates.
What’s left is then filled by the league, and league cup fixtures. And that’s then where the sequencing comes in. However, this is where the messy, complicated nature of the compilation begins.
There are ‘golden rules’ when it comes to formulating and signing-off fixtures. Clubs will never have more than two consecutive home or away matches. And, before, or after an FA Cup tie, should always be given a home game.
However, Liverpool, Tottenham, and West Ham United have all bucked that rule in recent seasons after upgrading or moving stadiums.
Over the Christmas period, teams who play at home on Boxing Day will play away on New Year’s Day, and vice versa.
Plus, policing plays a big part in how and when fixtures take place. Clubs are generally paired off with city rivals. Think Liverpool and Everton, and the two Manchester giants.
If one plays a home game, the other plays away. London gets a little trickier with so many clubs in one catchment area across the various leagues.
For every date of the league campaign, the fixture computer knows who is at home and who is away. And then it will mix them up in a random way that decides which matches will take place on which date.
So, you see, it’s all very complicated. And, after all that, maybe it’s better if everyone thinks it’s all fixed!
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