Secrets of the fixture computer

After a question from @chickenruby yesterday evening, I found myself wandering back onto Paul Fletcher’s 2009 blog post, detailing the immense amount of thought that has to go into organising the fixtures for the English football leagues. Thankfully, Paul did the work so we don’t have to:

I wanted to find out exactly how the fixture list is put together and just how difficult a job it is. Needless to say, I spent a large chunk of last weekend in a dark and cool room as my brain tried to come to terms with its most serious case of information overload since I asked my wife to point out my most obvious flaws.

There’s a bit more to it than simply ensuring that The Mighty Blades and the snort-beasts from S6 don’t end up playing at home on the same day:

Putting the fixture list together is incredibly complex – with a whole series of factors ensuring it is an increasingly difficult task.

Just to give you one example; every club is paired with another in regard to when they play their home and away fixtures. This is done for a number of reasons, one being so that clubs like Everton and Liverpool do not play at home on the same weekend.

West Ham, it turns out, are paired with Dagenham and Redbridge. But for reasons of revenue Southend request they do not play at home on the same day as the Hammers as they believe it impacts upon their attendance.

Southend, though, are in Essex, as are Colchester, so they cannot play together on the same weekend. Colchester share stewards with Ipswich so those two clubs also request they do not play home games on the same weekend. Transport links dictate Ipswich and Norwich do not play together on the same weekend either. In other words, when West Ham play at home can have an impact on when a club as far away as Norwich (108.8 miles) play their home fixtures.

And there are 12 other professional clubs in London…

But if you think that that describes the full complexity of the system, think again. Because then you have to avoid fixtures clashing with European games, International friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, English cup competitions, big local events and the like. Then you want to limit the amount of distance fans have to travel on public holidays when public transport options may be limited.

And then there’s the individual requests of each club.

As Fletcher notes:

…it must be an agonising, head-scratching process that slowly strips you of the will to live.

For instance, every time a fixture is changed it affects at least seven other fixtures and can easily impact on as many as 48.

The whole article carefully details the entire process and is well worth a read, even if you’re not a big footy fan.

One thought on “Secrets of the fixture computer

  1. Wonder how they factor in Manchester United’s home fixtures against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs to coincide with those teams’ loss of form?

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