When Tuesday comes? How fixture pile-ups are disrupting football’s routine and ritual

This is the time of the season where many clubs in the Football League find themselves playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday, just as a matter of course. The congestion in the schedules is such that all it takes is one game called off for a water-logged pitch, or one unexpected cup run and the crush to get all the fixtures out of the way before the end of the season becomes close to unbearable.

The impact of the FA Cup Quarter Final replays showcased the problem clearly, and gathered much comment. Bradford and Reading forced to play on a Monday night, both teams having played on the Saturday – Bradford made six changes in their league fixture, in preparation for the cup tie, Reading made ten. That replay came just nine days after the original fixture, with two league ties crammed in between. Another Quarter Final, Liverpool against Blackburn, also required a replay – that one is scheduled to take place a full month after the original fixture.

There are a few factors in play. We’re at the sharp end of the season and opposition look for any advantage they can get; if you can face an exhausted, distracted, or weakened side by refusing to shift a game, why wouldn’t you? In the Championship, fixtures are crammed around the international breaks – and even in League One and League Two, where fixtures will go ahead, teams lose players, or find cup ties with higher level opposition shifted and league games are bumped along the calendars.

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