Football fixtures 2009/10: Sir Alex Ferguson to study Manchester United's fixtures closely
16 June 2009 03:11
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In January the Manchester United manager launched an astonishing attack on the way fixtures are drawn up and openly questioned whether the system was designed to handicap his club.
This summer Ken Ramsden, the United secretary, was involved in this summer’s process and so Ferguson will be hoping that his club can avoid what he perceived as prejudice against the Premier League champions.
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Ferguson felt that, during the first half of last season’s campaign, his side had to play away from home against nine of the ten teams who finished directly below them in the league the previous season, and that the club’s three European away games were followed by matches away from home in the league.
Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager, and Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, have also questioned the fixture list in the past. Benitez also hit out at Ferguson’s comments.
“Two years ago we were playing a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays. And we didn’t say anything. Now he is complaining about everything, that everybody is against United. But the second half of the season will see them playing at home against all the teams at the top of the table. It is a fantastic advantage.
“But at Christmas, United played on the 29th and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, they were not complaining then.”
At the time, Ferguson asked if he seriously thought that the Premier League wanted to put United at a disadvantage.
He responded by saying: “I’ve got my doubts. I’m not saying what they do down there, but next year we’ll be sending somebody to see how it happens, I can assure you. I just don’t understand how you can get the fixtures like that.”
A statement from the Premier League dismissed his claims, saying: “The Premier League fixtures are put together through as random a process as possible.
“The initial list is created by specialist software before going to the Fixtures Working Party, which is made up of representatives from the Premier League, Football League, FA, clubs and supporters. The police also approve it before it is sent to the clubs, at which point they can raise any objections they may have.
“There are various factors that go into the structuring of the fixture list - police requests, club requests, involvement in European or Fifa competitions for example - but the overriding factor is the luck of the draw.”
What Ferguson will have to accept is the huge number of considerations that go into producing fixtures for all 92 league clubs.
The list is done jointly between the Premier League and the Football League, starting upwards of a year in advance, when Fifa and Uefa release their match calendars.
Clubs receive a questionnaire in March and that gives them the opportunity to state what they want to avoid. And then there are rules governing sequencing - such as the fact that clubs will play no more than two home games consecutively and, with an eye on the financial situation at lower league clubs, the games either side of an FA Cup fixture should not both be away from home.
There are also 10 rounds of midweek Championship fixtures to find space for, six for League One and League Two and four in the Premier League. And consideration must also be made for the Champions League, the extended Europa League - formerly Uefa Cup - the FA Cup, the Carling Cup and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
All of which will be completely ignored by any managers who have a grudge against the fixture list come 10am tomorrow.