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The scandal of EPL match scheduling – some things never change

The Scandal of EPL Match scheduling – some things never change

By Jerome

It is a little known fact that EPL clubs every summer submit scheduling requests to the PL. They are only requests and the powers that be finalise the schedule after consideration of the respective requests which naturally will have several clashes, and of course the TV networks will want their “super Sunday” set ups and so on. The typical requests include playing at home in weeks following international matches and Champions league fixtures, and who you play and where over the congested holiday periods etc.

It usually works quite well (for some), Chelsea request and usually get a very gentle start for the new season, Man Utd request and usually get home games after CL fixtures (in fact all 6 group games last season saw MU play at home – not that it did them any good as they fell out of the competition at the group stage).

Arsenal certainly don’t publish what they request to the PL but you can imagine what they requested last season.  With several changes in the squad likely and 2 critical CL qualifiers in the first 2 weeks – a reasonable  would have been be for 2 home games in the first 3 games and teams from lower in the table (as Chelsea always seem to get). Bear in mind that with the CL qualifiers the EPL needs 4 teams in the competition and the further those teams go the better prestige for the EPL and ability to keep its 4 positions in the competition, so it is certainly important that the English 4th placed team proceeds. So, with this background what did the powers that be do to the Arsenal schedule last season?

Week 1 – send Arsenal to the furthest ground in England (Newcastle) against a very physical team with ambitions on the European qualifying positions.

Week 2 – Home to CL ambitious Liverpool

Week 3 – Away to PL ambitious Man Utd

Sandwich these with the key games against Udinese of Italy and you couldn’t dream of a worse schedule to put a team through (thank you EPL!). Five of the toughest games in 14 days and key competitors Liverpool and MU benefit from not having midweek games in the interim.

The rest was history – Arsenal won home and away in the key CL qualifiers, but drew away at Newcastle and lost to Liverpool and MU. It was also significant that for the Liverpool/MU games Arsenal suffered from injuries and suspensions to Gervinho and Song (from the Newcastle game).

If anyone doubts the impact Ferguson and MU have on this league consider the run up to the Arsenal first game of last season with Newcastle. Everyone’s favourite Joey Barton was in the midst of his Twitter crisis, having criticised Newcastle management he was effectively persona non grata – he was training on his own and not playing in Newcastle pre season fixtures, effectively waiting to be sold.

Enter Ferguson. Newcastle manager Allan Pardew is interviewed live on Sky Sports mid-week prior to the Arsenal game and mentions specifically that he had been in conversation with “Sir Alex” earlier in the week and that clubs need to have a Twitter policy and that Barton while overstepping the mark, was not aware of what the limits to his Tweeting should be! From that moment it was obvious that Ferguson had effectively intervened to get Barton onto the pitch despite that fact that he was about to be sold and was not match fit.

Again the rest is history – Barton assaults Gervinho, Gervinho retaliates with a slap but the Ref mysteriously misses the first infraction and Gervinho gets the 3 match suspension (and Arsenal do not get a potential match winning penalty for Barton assaulting Gervinho in the penalty area). Song is also suspended 3 matches for “stepping” on a Newcastle player.

By the time Arsenal met MU at Old Trafford they had quite impressively beaten Udinese home and away but it took a lot out of them (including the 35 degree heat in Udinese midweek). The team was clearly mentally and physically exhausted and in no little turmoil re the comings and goings of Nasri/Fabregas etc. What better time to play Arsenal, and even Howard Webb did not need to work his magic for MU to get its resounding 8-2 victory. But Ferguson, Pardew, Barton and the EPL match scheduler all had a part to play in Arsenal’s poor start to the season. Of course the media ignored the excellent results in the CL and trumpeted the poor start to the PL season.

Twelve months on has anything changed?

  • Arsenal vs Sunderland 2.5 days after the international break.
  • Everton vs MU  5 days after the international break.

Sadly until there is a level playing field the EPL will remain a joke.

Ordinary is Pointless

Untold Arsenal

How it all began

 

 

37 comments to The scandal of EPL match scheduling – some things never change

  • rd

    You have no idea what you are talking about, please check to see what is involved in creating the EPL fixtures, it is not a simple process and just drawing fixtures out of a hat like cup games, its about the whole countries fixtures not just EPL teams, the fixture dates have an impact regarding revenue and other local teams impacted!!!

    Do reporters no longer do any investigation before writing an article, some of you really need to do some research, this article is embarrasing.

  • DR

    Away to Everton isn’t a nice fixture to start with though, the Mancs obviously get a nice legup with the fixtures generally suiting them but in this case a bit of extra rest isn’t bad but it’s not one to ease yourself into the season with.

  • Flavour

    It’s a shame!!

  • GoonerEris

    I am with you on this one as I quite noted the uncannily favorable fixtures united had, after each CL game and knew you just don’t get that lucky unless it was scheduled so. Thanks for clearing up that bit of ‘coincidence’ for me. Not a few foreign coaches have had reason to speak up about the influence wielded by Ol red nose on the powers that be and that cannot be mere coincidence: there was Jose Mourinho, Gerard Houllier, Benitez and we all know the battle of wits Wenger has and continues to have with the man. Things just have to change otherwise, we can all look forward to his retirement with glee.

  • Stuart

    IMO, for the first two or three games of the season it is impossible to say if it is a good or bad fixture as none of the teams would be sharp and many are incomplete with transfers still pending.

    I do wish they would shut the transfer window (at least for players in) before the season has begun.

  • @rd – I didn’t find any mention of ‘a hat’ in the article… are you sure you read it properly?

    Maybe, as you are so clearly an expert, you could point us all to the open source document detailing exactly how the schedules are generated including the fully transparent ‘request’ process from all interested parties?

    Many thanks

  • createstrain

    yh red devil lets have it.

  • Limped

    if the notion that clubs can request certain schedules due to their own predicament, it just shows how fucked up the premier league really is.
    If this is the case, What about the possibility of clubs requesting certain schedules for other clubs, ie their direct rivals?? There isn’t that much difference really.
    The moving of fixtures to suit sky & their interests should be investigated. It is obviously corrupt & while im sure there other clubs who have their own story to tell, it repeatedly benefits man utd, but shafts afc.
    We tend to get long periods of rest when playing the easier fixtures, then suddenly 3 games in 6 days during the difficult periods while man utd have a nice evenly spread fixture list.
    How about moving the hurdles closer together for certain runners in the 110mtr hurdle final @ the olypmics. Would it make a difference??

  • alex

    @RD
    Elaborate more if you can rather than to discredit the writer point blank.

  • Mogooner

    Anyone who can’t see that these ‘coincidences’ are anything but, needs their head examined. It is the same every season! There is no way in hell Man U would be handed a Saturday fixture after midweek Internationals taking place. Likewise, Arsenal would not be handed a Monday night start, thereby giving their players the most amount of rest and with it, a higher chance of winning. Another thing I noticed is that the Refs picked up right where they left off. Phil Dowd royally screwed Liverpool over, as did Howard Webb Southampton. Anyway, that’s an issue for Ref Watch although I don’t need to read it to confirm anything. I saw it with my own eyes.

  • Limped

    if the notion that clubs can request certain schedules due to their own predicament IS TRUE, is what I meant to say

  • dan

    Well it’s nice here in vietnam, I’ve noticed more arsenal jersey’s here worn by many of the visitors and even some locals. Seen one man u top worn by an ogre and really this man was so out of shape and nasty looking. Anyway many of my fears regarding the powers that be giving into sir Taggart are being confirmed, there is no way Arsenal could win epl or even the fa cup, not that they aren’t capable the corruption that we’ve all witnessed will not allow them to. Since the invincibles, sir Taggart has used his influence to enpower his followers into influential positions around epl and refs, just look at the personnel and their decisions in favouring man u.

  • Edda

    @DR
    Everton away is the perfect starting fixture tbh, they are always slow starters so i would be surprised if ManUre dont get an easy win tonight. This is how the results were the last 3 times we met Everton in the opening game :
    15. aug 2009 Everton – Arsenal 1-6
    15. aug 2004 Everton – Arsenal 1-4
    16. aug 2003 Arsenal – Everton 2-1

    The fact is that Everton have only won 2 of their last 10 opening games, last year they managed to lose at home to newly promoted QPR ! For me it looks like the fixture computer is programmed by a ManUre fan!

  • bob

    rd,
    You can’t wish or bully away these findings. You can disprove them if you offer up evidence. So please do so. But your assertion that reporters do their research and this writer, Jerome, has not is just hot air. I’d like you to demonstrate where reporters (that is one or more) has actually done some (indeed any) analysis on on the start up of this or any or multiple seasons. Where? I’d like there to be so that it’s a discussable issue. I think your issue is that it’s even made a topic for discussion, let alone reasonable doubt. Nice that you jumped on this at the top of the queue. But perhaps you are one of those honest and research-prone jornos. Or not. I hope they exist. But in my long term experience as a media watcher, such jornos are a dying breed. Investigative journalism is an endangered species. And, when it comes to EPL football (sorry, the Barclay’s Premier League) virtually non-existent. Please be the exception to that trend, or give us a link to one of them on this very issue. The floor is yours…

  • asd

    This article is nothing but a joke. Is the the level arsenal fans go to justify the the failures of the board and Wenger?
    Its funny none of the conspiracy theorist have said anything about lasanagate and i know if it was the other way round more theories would crop up.

  • asd

    In case the author doesn’t know, TV companies have a lot to do with scheduling matches. Big teams will get preferences and Sky doesn’t see us as a big team any more.
    One one team to blame for that.

  • asd

    **Errata**
    By scheduling i mean time of matches.

  • Rd – it is ok to criticise an article, but really if you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need to come up with some evidence. If you have some, write an article and send it to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org and I will run it on Untold

  • bob

    asd,
    Sky and the Barclay’s PL and other big players and NY Stock Exchange investors are entwined and quite literally invested in maximal exposure to Manure, to its success on and off the pitch, to its flagship status as the League’s leading team, to maintaining the value of its brand, to featuring Wayne Rooney – and now a two-headed creature – as its “human face” and so forth. So I’m not so fast to single out Sky TV and separate it from the League and then say, as if the author is a fool, don’t you know that the TV kings want the schedule to be their way; as if the TV kings and the BPL and Manure are not, as we say, peas in the same pod.

  • americangooner

    Outspoken managers are clearly against the schedules in the past. wenger himself has stated clearly that schedules are congested during CL. this problem is because tv broadcasters are given unneccessarily unlimited autonomy in setting up schedules. plus, the process is not transparent and obviously clubs like MANUre, and chel$ki have a significant advantage and power to influence schedules.

  • I am pretty much convinced that some clubs get the benefit of favourable scheduling, whether it’s playing before a rival week in week out, or getting extra rest when needed.

    It is one of those areas that is unlikely to be ever proven, but still the amount of times the favour lands with one team is just too staggering to be coincidence.

    @rd, sorry but I found your comments so typical of those that bury their heads in the sand and believe everything is above board. I am looking forward to reading your insight on how it all really works. I’d love to have it proven to be perfectly unbiased, as it would free me from my cynical nature – if but for a short while.

    Alas though, I fear you are not going to be able to help.

  • Limped

    Tony why did my original comment re champions league qualifier scheduling not appear??

  • @Limped – you might have used a blacklisted word,there were a lot of these (I’ve tidied them up now) that would bin a post if it containd a word or phrase… someone was a bit liberal with the terms i.e. putting in the name of a troll – alas the name might also have been part of a commonly used word. I’ve tried to sort this out as a few people have said that things have gome missing and we can’t see them anywhere.

  • It would be a very good idea to track this through the season. One of the things that is always difficult to do is to objectively look at the data and then let people decide if it is coincidence or not – much like this site does brilliantly with the referee watch articles…

  • bob

    jayramfootball,
    yes, tracking it as we go would be great so it would have its impact in “real time” so to speak, instead of waiting until the end and then comparing two years results at this time next year.
    Dogface,
    Is this possible? too time-consuming? It would be great.

  • Persian gunner

    It really hurts!
    I have just read the Song’s speaking of Ba$a as wining club! While we can see the sinister hands every where trying to bring us down!
    I believe some one have to make a movie out of our previous season, just like the one they made for Billy Bean: Money ball!
    And the name would be Wenger ball!

  • Damien Luu

    Well, with THIS and all of our little dirty refs’ works, plus all of our injuries due to their works, we still managed to finish third last season! Any other team, and I mean ANY, would go straight to the Championship League. This EPL is not a joke, it’s an insult to everyone who loves the game of football.

  • elkieno

    Well, all this talk of easy schedules and yet UTD didn’t do their bit in the ‘favour’. So all the help they got in starting at EFC which I thought was a good start for UTD, but alas everton ruined the plan!
    So moyes bucked the trend and beat them, not bad indeed. Maybe UTD’s season is over like ours (according to some) after all they are a point behind us now!

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    The scheduling is something I’m sure players are aware of, as is the lopsided treatment from referees.
    For some, that possibly is more of a factor than the wages issue.
    I can see (but not sympathise with) why the move to a club on a more level playing field would be attractive, irrespective of the amount of money on offer.

  • elkieno

    W. Parepetic: I get wat ur saying but maybe saying, ‘leaving us to go to another club that benefits from all the friends in high places’ is more accurate.
    (Just thinking out loud).

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Elkieno,
    You can probably guess what life used to be like for Barca’s players on the pitch, from the fact that there’s only two teams in Spain and they weren’t the ones who were supposed to win. That went on for an awful long time (decades) and now Madrid has hardly any Spanish internationals (Cassillas, Ramos, Arbeloa and Alsono) compared to Barca, Madrid fans whinge that the referees favour Barca…
    The moral of this little history piece is:
    You can’t count on friends-in-high-places
    &
    Quitting for an easier time (Luis Figo) isn’t always the best solution, long term.

  • colario

    So we have an easy start to the season, soft away games,extra days between matches. February -March we are playing difficult games Saturday Wednesday Saturday and the wheels come off! So we complain about the unfairness of the Fixture List!

    I do agree that manure seem always to get the easy rub of the season.

    SAF says what he wants, SAF gets want he wants!

  • anatra

    Man U hasn’t had an early start to the season since august 2005. They always seems to get monday or late sunday games for the first game of the season.

  • byrney

    Good to see the research that went into this article, as noted in an earlier comment:

    ‘Man Utd request and usually get home games after CL fixtures’

    United’s League fixtures following Champions League group games this season:

    Liverpool (A)
    Newcastle (A)
    Chelsea (A)
    Aston Villa (A)
    QPR (H)
    Man City (A)

    ‘Sadly until there is a level playing field the EPL will remain a joke.’

    Does this apply to United as well, or do conspiracies only work one way?

  • goonermichael

    Last season over new year We (and man city) Played games with a 48 hour break city lost to sunderland and we lost to fulham off the top of my head. manu had nearly 5 days after they lost to Blackburn.

  • Goona Gal

    @ Jerome, this was quite enlightening. Thinking about last year, the stressful emotions came rushing back. I remember being at the Udinese game and after 10 mins realising just how good they were and we had no RVP or Na$ri in the squad because they were banned and then after that draining encounter, 4 days later I watched Frimpong who was the best player on the pitch that day get sent off, we scored an own goal and to top that all off the ref was starstruck by king krankie.

    I was a bit suspicious how the game order was constructed, but I thought that if it was anything other than computer generation, there would of been a bigger outcry. It is interesting to learn that the scheduling nightmare was more by design than just down to bad luck.

    All request should be made available to the public or someone should do one of the freedom of information things to find out how much accomodation is given to each club. I wonder what Arsenal request if anything and do we get the opposite of our requests each year.

  • Fred

    LOL what a surprise to see Byrney’s incisive comment ignored by the “Man U conspiracy” faithful on here. I like your site but the notion that Sir Alex Ferguson instructed Pardew to play Joey Barton was a real face-palm moment tbf. Are you also implying that Ferguson, via Pardew, instructed Barton to get Gervinho sent off? Was “old red nose” really so worried about the man with the giant forehead that he had to go to such lengths to get him suspended from the United game? 😆 Priceless.

    Here’s another interesting stat: Everton have not lost at home on a Monday night fixture since 2001. Bearing in mind that they have been something of a bogey team for United in recent years, are you sure that United being given a Monday night fixture away to Everton was really intended to benefit them?? Why not just give United Southampton at home to kick things off? Oh wait, it was the only other team capable of winning the PL, Man City, who had that particular PLUM fixture to open their campaign. Interesting…