Inside story of how the Premier League generates fixtures for 2019/20 | Football | Sport

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The English top-flight’s 20 teams will all learn their 38-game calendar this morning as supporters eagerly await to find out when their biggest clashes come and who they will face on the opening day and the final day of the campaign.

While the term ‘fixture computer’ has long been associated with the release of the new Premier League season’s fixture list – it is a more painstaking process than you might think, with digital technology company Atos tasked with overseeing the collation of the fixture lists.

Atos has developed the division’s fixture schedules since the Premier League began in 1992 and will do so again for 2019-20, which begins on August 10 and ends on May 17 and sees Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa all return from the Championship.

The one man tasked with overseeing the list of fixtures is Atos Technical Architect Glenn Thompson, who has been involved in all previous 26 years of collating matches for the top four tiers of the English football pyramid.

But the operation takes near six months to complete, with data expert Thompson having to ensure that certain rules are adhered to.

Thompson told the Premier League’s official website: “[The process begins] At the start of the year. That’s when I get the playing dates from the Premier League. I then start to have a look at how we could fit them into a fixture sequence.

“International dates and the dates for the European club competitions are known in advance. The Football Association then adds in the dates for its competitions and what you are left with are the dates when you can play league and EFL Cup matches.

“We cannot do anything until we know the composition of each division, which is after the last EFL playoff. 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.”

Explaining Atos’ sequencing process, Thompson adds: “That’s the methodology we use, which is all about breaking the season down into a number of constituent parts, called sets. We break it down into five sets, that are reversed in the second half of the season.

“There are the ‘golden rules’ of sequencing. In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures and two away, or vice versa.

“Wherever possible, a club will not have more than two home or away matches in a row, and will be home and away around FA Cup ties. We will also strive to prevent any club from having to start or finish the season with two home or two away matches because it would be unfair for a team to finish with two aways, especially if they are looking for points.

“Around the Christmas period, if you are at home on Boxing Day you will be away on New Year’s Day, or the equivalent date. And we will also try to maintain a Saturday home-away sequence throughout the season wherever possible.

“Most clubs will [also] have a partner club 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.”

All of the Premier League’s members clubs are also asked to fill in forms in March asking which clubs they want to pair with for the coming campaign, which teams they do not wish to play at home on Boxing Day and whether there are any specific dates they want to avoid playing at home – with local police concerns usually playing a part in those answers.

On how many requests Atos can grant from those received, Thompson continued: “From looking at the sequence, we know how many of these dates we can meet. When we can’t, the Premier League will ask the club which of the requests are most important.

“We cannot accommodate everything but, on average, we satisfy higher than 85 per cent every year.”

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