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Ill Fitting Fixtures 03/12/2007

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Now admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, there are more important concerns that one could spend one’s time getting agitated over.  And even within the world of football in general and Watford in particular, our current wobbles probably warrant more attention.

 Nonetheless, as a paying customer it’s my prerogative to get wound up about what I choose to get wound up about, and the mathematician in me does like a balanced fixture list.

It’s been a source of modest disquiet for several seasons that the “fixtures computer” has appeared unable to concoct a schedule that hasn’t seen us facing the same opponents twice in short succession in mid-season (from last season backwards… Liverpool (21 days apart), Leicester (38),  Derby (21), Forest (28), Ipswich (27) and so on).

I guess it’s not a big deal… but reasonably well spaced fixtures just feels fairer.  One is less likely to come up against a team twice during the same run of form, or injury crisis – on either side.

But this season, for the first time I think, we have a double whammy.  Watford travel to Colchester tomorrow night a mere 24 days after an exhilarating 2-2 draw with the same opponents at Vicarage Road.  And lo… come the start of 2008 we face Charlton Athletic twice within 28 days.

The fixtures this mid-week are the exact reverse of those of three and a half weeks ago, similarly the fixture lists when we play Charlton.  So I’m struggling to justify this bizarre imbalance.  When the media occasionally focuses on the fixture list (normally during the mid-june post-season pre-transfer window fast) we’re told, in a rather patronising fashion,  that there’s an awful lot more to the fixture list than meets the eye… avoiding rivals playing at home on the same day irrespective of division, policing requirements and so forth.

But given that on two of the four dates in question there were/are no Premiership games scheduled at all, and thus far less to clash with, it’s difficult to understand why one of the Colchester “fixture blocks” couldn’t have been switched with one of the Charlton “fixture” blocks at no great cost, resulting in the two pairs of fixtures being much farther apart.  If the Sheffield derbies, which coincide with the Charlton games, need to be on a Saturday then either could surely have been switched with the weekend fixtures of three weeks ago.

Quite apart from which… if it’s such a horrific logistical impossibility to come up with a balanced fixture list then one wonders how the Germans manage it – with almost as many fixtures spread over a larger country and an international break to boot – the second half of their season is an exact reverse of the first.

And to add insult to injury (and not that I’ve got an axe to grind or anything) the football authorities continue to claim Intellectual Property Rights over the fixture list. As if a blind gibbon with a broken crayon and a couple of marbles couldn’t do a better job…



1. Ralph (Stratfordonavon'orn) - 03/12/2007

Nice one Matt. Although you really should’ve declared an interest (albeit lapsed) at the start of your scribe.

2. Colin Wiggins - 03/12/2007

It used to be a lot of fun around Christmas and Easter when the reverse fixture was played within a couple of days of the first match. For example, you’d be at home on Boxing Day and then play the same side away on the next Saturday, which occasionally would be the very next day. This had all the advantages of allowing any bad feeling to become even worse 24 hours later. I can’t remember when this stopped, probably around 1970 or so. Similarly, it used to be a lot of fun when FA Cup replays went into third or even fourth matches. And the first replay was straight after the original match and not several weeks later. And the quarter-finals and the semi-finals all kicked off at the same time. And the European Cup was for champions. And the First Division was called ‘the First Division’. And linesmen were called ‘linesmen’. And referees were called things like Maurice Fussey and Ray Tinkler. And in winter you’d play with a yellow ball on white pitches with green lines swept clear of snow . And a centre-half would have number 5 on his back. And matches kicked off at 3 on Saturdays.

And Roy Race was captain of England. Sorry Matt, you’ve really got me started….

3. Back from Hammerau - 04/12/2007

Games against Colchester 24 days apart?
That’s nothing. Didn’t we have to play Palace twice within a few days in May last year?

Surely the difference between the German fixture list and ours exemplifies the difference between the 2 national personalities.
Teutonic efficiency vs English eccentricity.
Vive la difference. I know which I’d rather have.
The mind boggles about what sort of mess the fixture list for Serie A is. (Lazio and Roma at home on the same day?)

4. Ralph (Stratfordonavon'orn) - 04/12/2007

And we used to play Lu-on on Boxing Day and watching the fights in the town centre was more exciting than the football…………………………….oh happy days

5. Al - 05/12/2007

… and you could spend from 2.00 till kick off, talking, chanting, laughing and having a good time… instead of being deafened by music you don’t want to listen to and cr@p announcements about non-events!

6. Tapps - 05/12/2007

I would suggest referees names have remained consistent….off the top of my head Mike Pike, Mark Clattenberg & Uriah Rennie are not the sort of names you would find in any other profession.

7. Paul Wiggins - 05/12/2007

And once Ross Jenkins in an away game at Southport in div 4 got off the bench, stepped over the wall into the crowd ( well gathering of friends more like) and bought a cup a soup from the refreshment hut. Ten minutes later he was on the pitch. That wouldnt happen now either!

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