Up to a few years ago, the fixture list was still being drawn up manually using the so-called ‘English key’. Each club was allocated a number between one and 18 and slotted into a prescribed model. This automatically generated the list of games. Individual adjustments could not be made. In order to break up the inflexible system of the English key, the DFL had its own software developed in order to support the preparation of individual fixture lists.
The planning of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 fixture lists takes into account the requirements of the local communities, the police, international football associations, clubs and stadium owners, fans and the Zentrale Informationsstelle Sporteinsätze (National Football Information Point – NFIP). Besides obvious restrictions such as the fact that neighbouring clubs should stagger their home games, other factors such as national holidays, major events being held at the same time and, above all, the match schedules of international tournaments, among other things, also need to be taken into account.
It would be practically impossible to process all the different variables without technical support. Even so, compiling a fixture list is by no means a sure-fire success. Those responsible have to repeatedly weigh up or reconcile different constellations and interests to arrive at the best possible outcome. The human element is therefore indispensable even in this age of technology and digitalisation.
Hundreds of options are checked and discarded before a final fixture list is agreed upon. Before the actual list of fixtures is allocated, a template of home and away games is determined first of all for each club. The planning for the coming season starts back in spring. However, the critical stage arrives when it has been determined which clubs have been promoted and relegated.
However, announcement of the schedule is by no means the end of the job. All that is in place now is the framework of the individual match days – in other words, which clubs play each other on what match day. Exact match days and kick-off times have to be determined individually over the course of the season. Once again, efforts will be made to take into account as many requirements as possible.
International competitions are the main reason why the precise fixture list is not published until the season gets under way. In order to give the international teams an adequate rest period, a Bundesliga match day cannot be finalised until it is clear which teams are playing when, especially in Europe.