The 2015/16 Premier League schedule was released on Wednesday.  The process is no random draw and is a time consuming process that starts months before the release of the fixture list.  What are the factors that ultimately resulted in this year’s schedule?

The first point to keep in mind that the scheduling committee is not only working with the 380 Premier League fixtures but those for all 2,036 matches played in England’s top 4 divisions.  The dance then must take into account international dates, European club competitions, and domestic cup matches.

Once the open dates are confirmed the committee starts the ‘sequencing’ process.

“(Sequencing is) the methodology we use which is all about breaking the season down into a number of constituent parts, which are called sets,” fixture-list compiler Glenn Thompson, of Atos, an international IT services company, told Premierleague.com. “We break it down into five sets, which are reversed in the second half of the season.”

Like the other steps the process is not random.  The committee follows some ‘golden rules’ of sequencing.

The goal is to have club’s play in home/away sequence throughout the season but as this is not possible some of the ‘golden rules’ of sequencing are:

  • 5 match sets should include 3 home and 2 away matches (or the reverse)
  • Clubs will not have more than 2 consecutive home or away matches
  • Clubs will have home and away matches around FA Cup ties
  • Clubs will not start or finish the season with consecutive home or away matches
  • If a club is home on Boxing Day they will be away for New Year’s Day (or the reverse)

Clubs are not the only consideration.  The committee considers how different fan groups will travel to see their team play.

“Yes. We look at whether we have got clubs from the same area travelling on the same trainlines across the Football League and the Premier League on the same day. We want to avoid having various “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.”

But the committee can not consider each team in isolation.

“Most clubs will have a partner club that 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.”

And to make it even more complicated clubs are asked for any special requests.  Special requests can be weeks they do not want to play at home usually in ‘conjunction with local police’ and related to other events in the city, clubs they want to be paired with, and teams they do not want to play at home on Boxing Day.

“We satisfy higher than 85% every year.”

The final step is getting the final club list for each division and then applying all the factors that have been worked out.

“We cannot do anything until we know the composition of each division, which is, obviously, after the last Football League play-off. Then we can start looking at the main bit of compiling the fixtures. It is a matter of placing each of the clubs in a pairing grid, which basically defines the dates they will be at home.”

“For every date in the season, the fixture computer knows who is at home and who is away and then it will mix them up randomly to determine which matches will take place on which date.”

This is not to say everyone is happy with every aspect of the final fixture list but it is a thorough process to help insure all involved are as happy as possible.

And the result is the 2016/17 Premier League Fixture list.

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