How we get the footy fixtures to you
- 22 Jun 06, 02:38 PM
LONDON - I know this is the World Cup blog but it's also a notable day for domestic football in that all next season's fixtures were published.
I asked Mark Mitchener, one of the stalwarts of our team of football journalists here in London, to blog about what it takes to get them to you.
To outside observers, the fixtures may seem to appear magically at the appointed hour of 1000 BST on the BBC Sport website and on Ceefax - but the preceding hours are a hive of activity here at BBC Sport Interactive Towers (inside Television Centre in London's White City district).
We are sent the fixtures under strict embargo from the Press Association (PA), around an hour and a half before the publication time, so we can get them ready for 10am. Luckily, we made it - just!
Stories are often sent to media organisations under embargo, to allow preparation of material so that all media outlets can then publish or announce them at the same time. It's standard practice for the British honours system, for instance.
So, the fixtures arrive around 0830, which is our cue to spring into action. Key fixtures from each division are typed out for Ceefax, and held on off-air pages that we can activate on the dot of 1000.
At the same time, our stats gurus will check that the automatic feeds from PA are ready to roll on our club and divisional fixture pages on the website.
Meanwhile, we also get stories ready for each division, highlighting the early games of note, that can be published on the website once the clock chimes 10 and we can frantically publish everything.
It's one of the few days of the year when we can guarantee fans of all 92 clubs have something new to look for.
Accrington and Hereford return to the Football League with trips to Chester and Stockport respectively, while in a match that immediately caught my eye, Tranmere's new manager Ronnie Moore will begin his reign against Oldham - the club that sacked him earlier this month.
Once the opening game has been mentally noted, many fans' eyes dart down the fixture list to Boxing Day (26 December) - always a popular day on the calendar. To their credit, the fixture compilers have been fairly successful this year in keeping travel times down on this day.
Most clubs have a reasonably reachable journey - with the longest this year being Milton Keynes (to Torquay) and Swansea (to Crewe).
As I understand it, the clubs do have some input, as do other authorities such as the police. Close geographical rivals like Arsenal and Tottenham will not play at home on the same day. Clubs who ground-share with rugby teams such as Stockport or Watford need to dovetail their fixtures accordingly. Other potential clashes - from political party conferences to horse racing festivals - are also taken into account.
We state that "all fixtures are subject to change" because almost immediately, matches will be moved - either for television coverage, clashes with internationals or other reasons.
Inevitably, fans may dread travelling to the furthermost outposts in their division. (Yes, Carlisle, that means you). However, I suppose the realistic view is that you have to play everyone else in your division at some point - the longest trip of all being Sunderland to Plymouth in the Championship.
Mind you, spare a thought for the faithful at Millmoor. Because of Rotherham's 10-point deduction, even three straight wins over Brighton, Huddersfield and Blackpool at the start of the season will still see them prop up League One...