How the SPFL decide on Premiership fixtures explained after Hibs chief's Hearts & Rangers gripe

The release of the Scottish Premiership fixture list is always something which excites fans, acting as a staging post for the beginning of the new campaign.

Every year there are always complaints from clubs or fans with regards to elements of the fixture list. Whether it is who and where they start the season against or midweek

trips to Dingwall to face Ross County.

A week away from the start of the new league campaign, Hibs chairman Ron Gordon expressed his dissatisfaction with the SPFL over the fixture list.

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The disappointment and frustration stems from facing Hearts and then Rangers in the first two games at Easter Road.

Gordon explained: "Honestly, who schedules the derby as the opening day? You would never put Celtic-Rangers, Man City-Man United as your opening day. That makes zero business sense, it kills your season ticket. Who does that? I have already had this conversation with the league. I just find it absurd. That is our reality, once it is published it is published.

"We have a big game and it puts us in a difficult position where we need to be ready to play those big matches. Not only do we have Hearts but we have Rangers after that at home. I think the scheduling is really, really poor. Poorly planned on multiple fronts. I was shocked. I was very disappointed at the league. You would never do that.”

So how did that decision come about?

The SPFL fixture list takes into account a lot of factors.  (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)The SPFL fixture list takes into account a lot of factors.  (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
The SPFL fixture list takes into account a lot of factors. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

SPFL secretary and director of operations Calum Beattie leads the way in helping produce the fixture list. This was his second campaign of doing so having taken over from Iain Blair.

He said: "I was very much involved over the past five years so I know there is no such thing as a perfect fixture list! My job is to try to produce the most balanced set of fixtures across each division of the league. There are always things you would want to improve but, overall, I am satisfied with the result.”

The difficulty with the Premiership fixture list is the lack of flexibility in the schedule. European, international and domestic dates are all taken into account. That has been intensified due to the World Cup taking place in Qatar in November and December, meaning there is only one spare midweek slot (December 21).

How are the fixtures produced?

The SPFL work with American firm GotSoccer who have experience with the Polish, French and Greek top flights.

Beattie said: “GotSoccer use optimisation software to come up with a set of fixtures based on the information and restrictions (‘fixture recipe’) we provide. A number of versions will be produced and refined before a final decision is made.”

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What forms the fixture recipe?

There are a number of factors at play. All teams have three home and three away in the first set of six fixtures. Clubs in the same city – Hearts and Hibs, Celtic and Rangers, Dundee and Dundee United – don’t tend to play on the same day. The SPFL try to minimise travelling over the festive period while clubs who play at home on Christmas Eve are away on January 2 and vice versa.

In addition, there will be requests from clubs for games not to clash with nearby events. Hearts playing at Tynecastle when Scotland are playing at Murrayfield for example.

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