After the recent announcement of the English Football League and Premier League fixtures for 2022–2023, spare a thought for those who do the difficult job of compiling each season’s schedule.
Most people don’t realize what goes into the process; some even believe the organizers place names into a hat and use a technique like a draw. But it’s not as cut and dried.
Working out EFL and PL fixtures is a laborious process that commences months before each season after UEFA and FIFA have set their international schedules. The process undergoes a raft of complicated stages before signing off the final fixture.
From Monday night treks to Newcastle to the top four teams meeting on consecutive weekends, this complex scheduling often subjects the teams to some contentious anomalies. But how do the involved parties get it right? Read on to find out.
The Demanding Job of Creating EPL and EFL Fixtures
The EPL and EFL fixture machine is part of global football folklore. Fans curse it for sending their teams to Norwich City on a weekday night and sometimes thank it for a gentle season start. The fixture computer has perceived in-built biases against all fantasies and won’t always get everything right. Still, it’s cherished all the same because it offers structure, something we can anticipate.
This machine presented its latest work in the 16th June announcement of the 20-team EPL fixture for the 2022–2023 season. The EFL follows suit with its extended commitment sheet to 72 football clubs.
The long-overdue release date was the culmination of eight months of comprehensive planning. The involved parties refer to it as “the impossible job.”
But Is It Really Impossible?
It’s inconceivable to satisfy everybody, which also applies to scheduling premier league and EFL matches. Every participating club must compromise; the planners can’t do anything to favor any one team.
Clubs will play 2,036 matches in the two championships across a single nine-month period. This is a considerable number, and the best way to avoid confusion is to ensure all games are played when scheduled.
The fixture order is decided via the ‘sequencing’ method. And once the organizing team releases all the fixtures for the world to see, members collectively sight in relief.
How Does Sequencing Work?
League planners use the sequencing method to divide the season into parts known as sets. Five separate sets break the games, and these parts will be reversed for the season’s second half. That’s why matchdays have the same fixtures during the two main components of the campaign.
Sequencing has several “golden rules.”
Any five EFL or premier league matches must comprise three away fixtures, two home games, or the other way round. Where possible, a team will not face more than two away or home matches in succession and will play home and away round FA Cup ties.
The league scheduling team also strives to prevent clubs from starting or completing the season with two away or home matches. This makes sense, considering finishing with two away games fixtures would seem unfair, especially if the team in question is fighting for points.
Around the Christmas festivities, if you played at home during Boxing Day, you’ll be the visitor on New Year’s Day. Moreover, the team also tries to uphold a Saturday home-away sequence wherever possible throughout the season.
Finally, clubs from the same area aren’t allowed to host visitors on the same day. Traffic issues are the main reason fixture schedulers prevent two separate teams from playing at home. So if Man City is hosting a visiting team on a given day, Man U will have to be hosted in a different location, and vice versa.
When Does the Scheduling Team Begin Working On Next Season’s League Fixture List?
This work begins at the start of the year once the premier league submits the playing dates to the fixture planning team.
The entire plan is set up while considering the FIFA international dates, European club competitions, and Football Association competitions. What remains are the dates for League Cup and Premier League matches.
Also, EFL and Premier League clubs must be consulted. The league sends a form to each participating club, which they’ll fill out.
For instance, teams are asked if they have specific dates where they don’t want to play at home, although the club must answer the question in conjunction with the local police. Clubs are also requested to name their respective partner clubs, then state if there are any teams that they’d not wish to host on Boxing Day.
How Do the Organizers Check the Fixture List?
Traditionally, EFL and Premier League representatives take several days to review the fixtures. They look at all the dates in the season to ensure that the organizing team has addressed everything they were supposed to.
The fixture computer comes in handy during this crucial review. If the team doesn’t want to shift a fixture to a particular date, the machine will suggest alternative dates where they can move the game.
Notably, a single matchday change may prompt up to 40 other adjustments on the entire fixture. So the organizers must heed numerous considerations when evaluating and tweaking the season plan.
An Overview of the Key Dates for The 2022/23 Premier League Season
The Premier League season commences on the weekend of 5th, 6th, and 7th August, a week earlier than the previous campaign. This means clubs will break for 11 weeks between seasons to accommodate the first-of-its-kind winter World Cup.
Consequently, the final match to be played will be match-round 16, taking place over the weekend of 12th and 13th November before the participating countries call up their players for travel to the Qatar World Cup. The league will then resume on Boxing Day, right after the World Cup final that will take place on 18th December.
The PL will conclude on 28th May, with all fixtures kicking off simultaneously, as is typical of the final date.
Expect a Unique 2022/23 Premier League Season
Besides the major leagues in Europe halting mid-season to give room for the winter World Cup, the biggest and most anticipated change in the Premier League is the return of five substitution opportunities.
The rule was introduced when Premier League teams returned from the 2019–2020 Coronavirus-enforced season hiatus. But managers had to juggle just three substitutions last season after clubs backed the idea of reverting to the status quo.
But the PL sides voted to restore five subs permanently in March. This rule comes into effect from the beginning of the new season.