Despite a delay to the complete easing of Covid-19 restrictions, life in the UK is returning to normality – and that is being replicated by the Premier League, too.
Having been forced to watch the majority of last season from the comfort of their own home, supporters returned to stadiums towards the end of 2020/2021 – just as they have done in limited numbers at Euro 2020.
With the big kick-off scheduled for Saturday, August 14, those numbers are set to return to capacity next campaign, providing there are no further complications when it comes to Government guidelines.
As the footballing world continues to focus on the European Championships and Copa America – which are running alongside each other this summer – it may have been easy to miss the fact that Premier League fixtures for next season have already been released.
Due to the devastating Covid-19 pandemic and it’s knock-on effect in professional sport, last season saw a delayed start and finish to the Premier League calendar.
However, in keeping with the return of ‘normality’ in wider society, the 2021/2022 campaign is also set to take on a more familiar look when the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United get down to business.
In the midst of England’s push for Euro 2020 glory, there will be no break as such from football this summer.
But while that charge takes centre stage for now, attentions will soon turn back to the Premier League. But how, exactly, is the fixture list compiled?
Glenn Thompson, an Atos employee who plays a lead role in determining the fixture list each term, said: “For me, it begins at the start of the year; that’s when I get the playing dates from the Premier League.
“The whole thing is built up putting in the international dates from FIFA, then the European club competitions, then the FA adds in the dates for its competitions and what you are left with are dates you can play league and League Cup matches.”
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On the creation of a ‘fixture sequence’, he added: “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 which are reversed in the second half of the season.”
In terms of the determining each of those sets, there are a number of golden rules.
Indeed, in a cross-section of any fives matches, there should be a split of five home games and two away (or vice versa), while clubs will not have more than two home or away fixtures in succession, where possible. Also, on each side of FA Cup ties, clubs will have one home and one away game.
Mr Thompson also has to ensure that two-club cities do not clash in order to accommodate policing and traffic.
For example, if Liverpool are playing at home at Anfield, then Everton will be handed an away fixture, and so on.
After that lengthy process, clubs are asked the following three questions;
– Are there any dates you wish not to be at home (answered in conjunction with the Police)?
– Which club do you want to pair with?
– Are there any teams you do not wish to play at home on Boxing Day?
Thompson continued: “If we have got any issues, we might have to go back and start again to produce a different set of fixtures. I’m reviewing the fixtures all the time to ensure other things can be met.
“After the fixtures have been finalised, it’s a matter of sending them to the leagues. The fixtures are then released to relevant press distributors the night before, so they can distribute them on the morning of release.”