28.07.2020

Questions answered about the creation of the new season calendar

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We explain how the calendar for the 2020/21 RPL season was compiled.

Why did the calendar appear less than two weeks before the start of the tournament?

Work on the calendar was carried out in advance, but before the end of the championship, it was not known in which European tournament the teams would play and at what stage they would start their campaign. In addition, the final of the Russian Cup affected who exactly would play in the Europa League. Zenit's victory gave Dynamo Moscow the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds.

When all the participating clubs in European competitions became known, and the newcomers to the league were approved, it became possible to prepare an optimal version of the calendar.

Is it true the calendar was created by a computer?

Yes, for the second year in a row, the season's calendar was compiled in conjunction with the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE). The sports research laboratory has developed an algorithm that allows you to create different versions of the calendar that meet different restrictions and conditions.

What are the restrictions?

The limitations in this context are what makes it possible to create a balanced calendar that contributes to improving the quality of the tournament. We distinguish three types of restrictions – sporting, commercial, and infrastructure.

Sporting restrictions are directly related to the preparation of teams, their participation in other tournaments, and the principles of fair distribution of fixtures across matchdays. For example, a team must have at least 48 hours between games, and each club must play an equal number of games at home and away. All RPL teams participate in the Russian Cup, and six clubs also participate in European competitions. This also limits the available days for their matches.

What are the commercial restrictions?

All clubs are divided into two categories – A and B. Category A includes the five teams whose matches show the highest TV ratings. These are Zenit, Lokomotiv, Krasnodar, CSKA and Spartak. To keep the calendar balanced, Category A teams play no more than one game per matchday between each other. The restriction principle also works in circles: each Category A team will only play two home matches against teams of the same category on one matchday.

What are the infrastructure constraints?

These include the congestion of stadiums with other events, issues related to security, as well as climate conditions in various regions. Holding matches in comfortable weather conditions is one of the main priorities of the League, so together with the HSE we have identified four "warm" regions and four "cold" ones.

Which regions are considered "warm"?

"Warm" regions are those where the weather and infrastructure allow you to comfortably hold matches in the cold season. This can be done in Sochi, Krasnodar and Grozny, as well as in St. Petersburg thanks to the roof at Gazprom Arena, which allows you to comfortably hold matches at any time of the year. Teams playing in these stadiums will play matchdays 17-20 at home.

What about the "cold" regions?

Arsenal Tyla, Rubin Kazan, Ural Ekaterinburg and FC Ufa play in the "cold" regions. These teams do not play home games during periods when there is a high probability of low temperatures, and therefore difficult conditions for players and fans.

Wait, but is it colder in Rostov than in Grozny, and is it warmer in Tula than in Moscow?

On average, Rostov is not much colder than Grozny, but it is impossible to impose more restrictions. Because of this, it would be impossible to meet the sports restrictions of the calendar. Four clubs in each category is the optimal number.

As for the "cold" regions, the average temperature in Moscow during December and March is the same as in Tula. But not only this factor is taken into account; there is also the comfort of stadiums. New arenas are more comfortable than old ones.

All right, the restrictions are sorted out, let's move onto the calendar. Why will the teams play six matchdays in August? Couldn't we finish the championship later?

The 2020/21 season is running on a tight schedule due to the late start and the need to complete it in mid-May in order to prepare for Euro 2020. 16 May is the optimal end date for preparing Russian national team players for Euro 2020 - the national team's training plan is designed for just three weeks. We still need to hold play-offs, which are scheduled for 19 and 23 May.

The only month where you can play matchdays in the middle of the week is August. It is during this period that RPL clubs are not yet participating in European competitions (the first one will begin their continental campaign in mid-September) and the Russian Cup.

Do European competitions interfere with midweek matches?

This season, due to the density of the calendar, European matches will be held every week, starting with the qualification rounds and ending with the knockout stages. To meet the interests of clubs representing Russia, it is necessary to evenly distribute the load in the preceding matchdays. Teams participating in the Champions League and the Europa League have a reduced number of long-distance trips before European matches to Ufa and Ekaterinburg for teams from the central part of Russia.

In addition, there are specific restrictions. Teams playing in the Champions League must not play with teams participating in the Europa League on matchdays preceding European games. This allows them to keep a balance on the timing of preparation, since Champions League and Europa League matches are held on different days.

When will the exact fixture list with dates and kick-off times appear?

We will publish a detailed fixture list in several stages: from matchdays 1 to 6 - in the coming days, from matchdays 7 to 10 - after the European qualifiers, then for matchdays up until 19 - after the draw for the group stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.


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