The Premier League fixture list is actually a lot more important than you realise. Stretches of particularly easy or difficult games can make a team look better or worse than they actually are. So how does this fixture system get determined?
How are Premier League fixtures decided? The 20 Premier League clubs are placed into a pairing grid for each home and away game. For every available date in the season, the fixture computer randomly selects which matches will take place on which date.
In terms of which fixtures take place at which time, the Premier League makes sure this is done randomly. So who your team is playing in any game week will be completely random so that there is no chance of any bias or fans being upset about a particularly difficult run or a particularly easy one. This is a specifically different approach to most US sports that actively decide the fixture list based on maximising audience opportunities and creating drama.
If there are these runs of games then it is still random as there is no human element involved in deciding this. However, there is a human element on exactly when these fixtures take place. The Premier League takes into account all of the fixtures that a team has to play whether that be in European competition or domestic cup competitions.
This is particularly important for teams playing in Europe as they play midweek. Teams playing in the Europa League will not play at the 12:30 fixture on a Saturday, with the Premier League usually allowing these teams to play on Sunday so they can get extra rest from the weekend.
This is also the case for Monday night games as these will usually only be between teams who do not play in Europe. There is one other factor that is important in deciding Premier League fixtures and that is that most clubs have a partner club that they cannot play a home game at the same time as their partner team.
For example, Manchester United and Manchester City cannot play a home game on the same day as this would cause too much trouble for the police and public transport. The partner clubs are usually the ones who play in the same city or the same region, so the computer takes this into account when randomising fixtures.
While the Premier League determines fixtures at the start of the season they do not confirm the exact start times until closer to the game week. This is because they need to work around the fixtures that teams have closer to the time. The Premier League often has to make changes on the go to their fixture list.
Who makes the fixtures for the Premier League?
While the Premier League fixture schedule is randomised by a computer there is a man behind the list. His name is Glenn Thompson and he took on the role when the Premier League was first created in 1992. Essentially his job is to oversee the production of the fixture list for the Premier League.
Thompson is recognised as one of the most influential people in football and he is a technical architect at IT company Atos. Thompson has a few rules as to the way that the schedule works and it makes the randomisation much more difficult to calculate.
For one thing, he makes sure that every five games a team either has three home games and two away games or three away games and two home games. An accessory to the rule is that a team will never have more than two home or away games in a row. This is to make sure there are no long stretches where a team plays away from home.
He also has some specific rules around the start or the end of the season. No team will start or finish their campaign with two home or two away games. Teams will start the year with one home game and one away game and will finish the year with the same pattern.
There are also specified rules around the holidays. Thompson ensures that every team will have one home game during the festive period in the league. This makes the randomisation much more complicated and it is a very long process, with Thompson beginning his work for the season in the November of the previous year.
Why do Premier League fixtures change?
While the Premier League begins the season with a clear fixture list they will often have to make changes throughout the season.
These changes are to accommodate the cup competitions whether that be domestic or European. Cup competitions can be changing constantly and so the Premier League often has to make changes when a team progresses further into a competition. The Premier League knows that they will likely have to make changes further into the season.
For example, the FA Cup semi-finals and League Cup Final are scheduled to take place on the same weekend that Premier League fixtures are planned to take place. This means that the Premier League will almost certainly have to make changes as long as there is a Premier League team in these rounds of cup competitions.
These are some of the more drastic changes where the Premier League will need to inset fixtures into a different game week. These changes are rarer as the Premier League knows the dates of cup competitions and so works around them in general. However, there are small changes the Premier League makes constantly.
They will often change fixtures within a game week to help teams who are playing in Europe. Usually, European teams will not play in games early on Saturday and the Premier League usually makes sure that teams playing on Thursdays during the week will play their Premier League games on Sunday.
The Premier League has also had to make changes to the 2022/23 season due to the World Cup being held in the middle of the domestic season. The Premier League had to make changes to deal with losing a month of their season and it is why the 2022/23 Premier League season is incredibly congested. The Premier League has had to make more changes to this season than any other in the past.