The winter World Cup has seen Premier League clubs make more requests for the 2022/23 season than usual, the fixture list compiler has revealed.
The campaign, which starts earlier than usual on August 6, will pause between November 13 and December 26 due to the tournament in Qatar and it has put heavy pressure on Glenn Thompson, the man responsible for putting the fixture list together.
Thompson, who works for Atos, an international IT services company used by the Premier League, has been working on next season’s fixtures since the start of the year and has had a lot to contend with, with 2,036 games across the top four divisions to arrange.
Clubs are invited to send fixture requests – such as asking to be at home on a certain date – in March and Thompson says there have been more than usual.
“The early start to both the Premier League and EFL means we have encountered more date requests from clubs than usual,” he said ahead of Thursday’s release of the 2022/23 fixtures.
“The various start, break and end dates between the leagues has also posed a few sequencing problems.”
The fixture list release is a focal point of the summer as fans can begin to plan out their season, but invariably they are left unhappy.
There are annual accusations of conspiracy, with supporters obsessed with the idea that their team have been deliberately handed a challenging run of games.
Thompson says that if one club had issues with fixtures last season, it would look to be addressed this term.
“You can’t satisfy everyone,” he said. “It’s a compromise across all clubs; you can’t do anything to favour any one club.
“There are 2,036 matches across the Premier League and Football League over a nine-month period, and the ideal solution is to ensure that those matches can all be played when scheduled.
“If there are issues with a club’s fixtures one year, you try to take that into account the next year. You try to ensure if there is an undesirable set of fixtures, they don’t get it two seasons in a row.
“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.”
There are some rules that will always be followed, such as teams never having more than two home or away games in a row scheduled, not taking into account rearranged matches, and alternating between home and away on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Thompson added: “In any five matches there should be a split of three home fixtures, two away or the other way around. A team will never have more than two home or away matches in a row, and, wherever possible, you will be home and away around FA Cup ties.
“A club will never 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.
“Around the Christmas period, if you are at home on Boxing Day you will be away on New Year’s Day or an equivalent date. We also try to maintain a Saturday home-away sequence throughout the season wherever possible.
“Also we look at whether we have clubs from the same area travelling on the same train lines across the Football League and the Premier League on the same day.
“We want to avoid having “pinch points” on the rail and road network. We also tell the computer to try to minimise travel on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day or an equivalent date.”