It’s one of the most anticipated dates in the football calendar.
For many fans, that magical day in June when the fixtures are released marks the true start of a new campaign.
And it will no doubt have been welcomed this year more than ever, with a light at the end of the tunnel following games played behind-closed-doors over the past year. But how do they come to sort out every single fixture for each of the EFL’s 72 clubs?
Well, contrary to what some may think, it isn’t a case of chucking the teams into the ‘fixture computer’ and seeing what it throws out.
Rather, it involves a working party made up of a cross-section of clubs, and a representative from the Football Supporters’ Association. The aim is to try and ensure a fair outcome for all the sides involved.
It is a painstaking process and often leads to supporters ruing the fact they’re away on Boxing Day or have a long trek on the final day.
Now, the brains behind the EFL’s system has given an insight into the work that goes into compiling 1,600 games each year.
Paul Snellgrove, the EFL’s Competitions Manager, outlined the process in the summer edition of the EFL Magazine: “At the outset, fixtures are generated randomly, although there are a number of stages and processes to follow to make sure we can get it right for clubs and supporters.
“The process starts with a draft schedule…. The calendar for all national and international games is hugely congested, so drafting out potential domestic combinations from the outset is vital to getting the best outcome.”
Of course the process is such a vast one, and complicated further due to the geographical issues. For instance, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday are never both at home on the same day, as the strain on local police services would be too much.
Likewise, to balance it out no team is ever drawn to play three consecutive match days at home or away. To this end, the EFL makes sure any five-game sequence has a two-to-three split, either way.
Paul also says that major events such as the Notting Hill Carnival or the Boat Race have to be taken into consideration.
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He said: “Fixture questionnaires are sent out to all clubs, and the police, so they can identify high-profile fixtures which may have an impact on this area. For example the Boat Race or any number of marathons have to be considered to ensure clubs are not playing at home on a day when roads may be congested for other reasons.”
Paul adds that once a schedule is drafted, it is sent off to the original working part and the police, before being signed off.
He adds: “The whole process is lengthy, taking each club from an initial random selection to a suitable schedule.
“Our aim is to ensure the end result is a fixture list that is fair and equitable for all 72 clubs and their supporters each season.”
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