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Fixture News

Fitting the fixtures

20 June 2016

How the lists are put together

AFC Wimbledon’s fixture list for the 2016/17 campaign in League 1 will be revealed on Wednesday at 9.00 am.

However, putting together the league fixture lists is a lot more complex than picking numbers out of a hat for a cup draw. Several different rules need to be applied and Chief Executive Erik Samuelson described the process in detail during a programme article last season.

This is republished in full below:

Preparing fixtures is an extraordinarily complicated process. First, some basic rules have to be applied: for example, two clubs should not be scheduled to play each other twice within four weeks; and, as far as possible, no club should have two successive Saturday fixtures that are both home or both away, and no club should play three consecutive home or away fixtures. That immediately explains why we sometimes have successive home or away fixtures on a Tuesday and a Saturday.

It’s impossible to fit all 46 of a club’s league fixtures into the normal season without some being played in midweek, and if we didn’t have any Tuesday/Saturday pairs that were either both home or both away, or successive away fixtures, then the rule about not having successive Saturday home or away games would have to be broken.

Another rule is that games between geographically close clubs are not scheduled for midweek. This is apparently because clubs have said that if their local games are played in midweek, they lose out on the extra income that would come from them being played on Saturdays. So, instead, midweek games are generally between clubs separated by a middling distance. This doesn’t explain a Tuesday night away game at Accrington, but it does explain why we have tended to play Oxford and Northampton in midweek rather than, say, Barnet.

As a fans-owned club, perhaps we should have something to say about this. Do we agree that the extra income the club gets from local Saturday games is worth the hassle and cost to fans of the consequent longer-distance midweek away trips?

Other rules stipulate that, where possible, clubs in Leagues One and Two should have a home and an away game either side of the first and second rounds of the FA Cup, to avoid too many successive home or away games. But all these rules can be overridden by the process of pairing. Pairing seeks to ensure that certain teams – for example, Spurs and Arsenal – don’t both play at home on the same day, and also that a game shouldn’t take place on the day of a big local event, because it would put excessive strain on local services.

Clubs can ask to be paired. For smaller clubs, this may mean avoiding home games when a much larger nearby club is likely to draw fans away from their game or, in some cases, because they share services. These pairings can extend quite widely. For example, West Ham are paired with three clubs: Leyton Orient, Dagenham & Redbridge and Southend. In turn, Southend are paired with Colchester, who are paired with Ipswich, who are paired with Norwich. So the knock-on effect of a request for a change to a West Ham fixture could be a change to a Norwich fixture. We have chosen not to be paired with anyone, because when we looked to see how often larger nearby clubs play at home at 3.00 pm on a Saturday, we concluded that it wasn’t worth us pairing.

I’ve not touched on the effects on fixtures of live broadcast selections, international matches and call- ups, or variation in the length of the season. And for another day, there is the controversial issue of whether Football League clubs should play during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which is scheduled to take place in mid-season in 2022. Who we play and when we play them is, of course, of interest to us all.

Next season’s fixtures will be revealed on the official website at 9.00 am on Wednesday. The whole fixture list will be published on a static HTML page on the website (replacing the normal home page).

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