Meet the man behind Norwich City’s Championship fixture list
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The Football League's fixtures' guru, Paul Snellgrove, is likely to be praised and cursed in equal measure on Wednesday. Here he provides some insight into the process.
Q: One of the main questions this year is why are the English Football League (EFL) fixtures being released a week after the Premier League fixtures?
A: The whole process takes 23 days in total after the last play-off final. The Premier League approached us at the beginning of the process to say they were going to be bringing theirs forward. We felt it vitally important that clubs and supporters receive the best possible fixture list, therefore we opted to retain the time available to us in order to achieve this. Of course a by-product of this process is that the focus will now be on the EFL fixtures come June 22. It's the first time that the EFL schedule has been released at a different time to the Premier League. A lot was dependent on clubs involved in the Championship play-offs so that was why we were relatively late announcing the fixture release dates.
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Q: There was a fixture list released on social media a week or two ago – can you confirm this was a hoax?
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A: Yes I can, it was a hoax. Whilst it looked a good effort, on closer inspection, there were a number of fixtures that wouldn't be permitted with regards to the pairings of clubs.
Q: When will Sky Sports be announcing their live broadcast selections?
A: This year, the live match selections for opening weekend will be released with the fixtures on June 22 at 9am. The following weekend's selections will then be made in the following days. We have looked to make improvements to the announcement process this year, and the EFL will be announcing release dates for live selections throughout the season, in due course. There will be a number of live fixtures from the opening weekend matches. We are starting a week before the Premier League so as ever we are seeking to showcase the EFL with live opportunities across that weekend.
Q: Do you accept midweek fixtures are always a big talking point?
A> During our extensive review process we do look at all long journeys significantly and try to achieve the best solution overall. We will try and balance it out – if a club has five away trips, we'll do our best to make sure three or four out of those five aren't excessive in distance. One or two might be, but it will never be a case of every away trip being long distance, as we will always try to achieve a balance over a batch of away trips. Ultimately we do our utmost to avoid excessive journeys for supporters. We tend to schedule the most local games for weekends rather than midweek as that approach helps to maximise attendances at games across the season.
Q: Is that the same regarding local games on the opening day?
A: The opening day is considered a key date – along with Boxing Day, New Year's Day and the final day. We try to avoid local fixtures on these dates to allow clubs to minimise costs. Doing so helps to keep the profile of the fixture down, so the police categorisation, and therefore cost, is relatively low. Clubs prefer to avoid local derbies on key dates because they will be well attended regardless of when they are played.
Q: Why aren't there local derbies over Christmas?
A: The answer to the previous questions applies. We always keep fans in mind, particularly over Christmas, to try and keep the away fixtures within a reasonable distance. There's also the consideration that these matches are on bank holidays, which bring increased police costs to the home clubs. And a local derby on a key date would increase the profile, and therefore the cost, even more.
Q: What's next, after the 2016/17 fixtures are released?
A: Once they're released, clubs have a 10-day period to request any changes to kick-off times, and minor day changes to Friday night or Sunday, then it's a case of getting them finalised and re-submitting the finished list. We also review the software every season and try to come up with enhancements. This is all to try and improve the process for the clubs. Often you can go round in circles and waves – what's in fashion one season goes out of fashion the next. It's a case of sticking to principles and seeing what can be improved, season on season. Once that's complete, we'll then go again and start to look ahead to 2017/18.