Fixture congestion: When will the Premier League’s postponed games be played?

The Premier League postponed all games that were due to be played from Saturday through Monday as a mark of respect after the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96.

Calling off matches in a season that has been truncated by the winter World Cup, which kicks off in Qatar on Nov. 20, means finding a place to play the games is no easy task.

Here we take a look at the games that have been called off, other fixtures that are at risk, and possible solutions.

Which games have been postponed?

All matches in the seventh round of fixtures.

AFC Bournemouth vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal vs. Everton
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
Fulham vs. Chelsea
Leeds United vs. Nottingham Forest
Leicester City vs. Aston Villa
Liverpool vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton vs. Brentford
West Ham United vs. Newcastle United

Are any other games at risk of being postponed?

The Queen’s funeral will be held on Monday, Sept. 19, which would not directly impact the Premier League as the two-week international break begins on the same day. But the matches due to be played the weekend before it, Sept. 16-18, are under threat.

Police resources will be required for the days leading up to the funeral and that means football matches might not be able to take place for safety reasons.

This is especially the case in the London area (matches in bold) — especially the two scheduled for the Sunday. Chelsea vs. Liverpool could, logistically at least, move forward a day and be played on the Saturday, but Arsenal are in Europa League action on Thursday evening so could only play on the Sunday.

Friday, Sept. 16, 2022
Aston Villa v Southampton
Nottingham Forest v Fulham

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City
Brighton & Hove Albion P-P Crystal Palace*
Newcastle United v AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022
Brentford v Arsenal
Chelsea v Liverpool
Everton v West Ham United
Manchester United v Leeds United

*Brighton vs. Palace was postponed on Wednesday due to a planned train strike. That industrial action has now been cancelled, but there is no news about the game being reinstated on Sept. 17.

The Premier League and the EFL could choose to postpone all matches as a mark of respect before the funeral, but this is unlikely.

What about the games in European competition?

Arsenal, Man United and West Ham all played their games in the Europa League and Europa Conference League on Thursday. Arsenal were already in action against FC Zurich when the news of the Queen’s death broke, while United and West Ham were preparing for kickoff.

There had been speculation that next week’s games in those two competitions, as well as the six games featuring British clubs in the Champions League, could be called off. But all these ties are set to go ahead as scheduled.

Tuesday, Sept. 13
Liverpool vs. Ajax
Rangers vs. Napoli
Sporting CP vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday, Sept. 14
Chelsea vs. FC Salzburg
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Celtic

Thursday, Sept. 15
Arsenal vs. PSV Eindhoven
RFS vs. Hearts
Sheriff vs. Man United
Silkeborg vs. West Ham

When will the postponed games be played?

This is the big question, and there is no available date in 2022.

Every midweek after the upcoming international break through to the start of the World Cup is being used; four rounds of European games, a full set of Premier League matches and the third round of the Carabao Cup.

English football restarts on the midweek of Dec. 20 — just two days after the World Cup final — with the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, followed by three blocks of Premier League matches over the Christmas period.

This list shows how congested the schedule will be in 2023, with only three vacant midweeks built in through to the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, May 28.

Jan. 10 – Carabao Cup QF
Jan. 17 – FA Cup R3 replays
Jan. 24 – Carabao Cup SF L1
Jan. 31 – Carabao Cup SF L2
Feb. 7 – FA Cup R4 replays
Feb. 14 – European competition knockouts
Feb. 21 – European competition knockouts
Feb. 28 – FA Cup R5
March 7 – European competition knockouts
March 14 – European competition knockouts
March 21 – International break
March 28 – International break
April 4 – Vacant midweek
April 11 – European competition QF
April 18 – European competition QF
April 25 – Premier League fixtures
May 2 – Vacant midweek
May 9 – European competition SF
May 16 – European competition SF
May 23 – Vacant midweek

Teams who have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup or the FA Cup in an earlier round could use those matchdays if necessary, though it becomes complicated if that league game is due to be shown on TV as it shouldn’t be scheduled against the broadcaster of the cup competition.

The midweeks in late January reserved for the Carabao Cup semifinals offer a solution — but there will still be four clubs ruled out.

So just play the games in the vacant midweeks?

It’s not quite that simple as those vacant midweeks are there for a reason. The clubs involved in the Carabao Cup final (Feb. 26) plus the FA Cup quarterfinals (March 18), semifinals (April 22) and final (June 3) will all need to rearrange the league matches scheduled for these dates, and that’s primarily what the vacant slots are there for.

It’s especially a problem for teams who go far in a European competition as there is little room for manoeuvre. Four rearranged games do not fit into three midweeks, so if a club were to reach the finals of both domestic cups, and get to the semifinals of a European competition, there simply isn’t the available dates to rearrange the league matches as it is. And this has made that problem worse.

The Premier League has to look at these dates and take into account the worst-case scenario. It cannot sleepwalk into a situation where the dates run out, so it will be looking for the best way to avoid unintended consequences of this month’s postponements.

Couldn’t some of the games just be played on European midweeks?

There is a Memorandum Of Understanding between the leagues and UEFA that matches won’t be played at the same time as Champions League matches, if at all possible. In 2013, UEFA fined the Premier League £1.1m for doing so, deducting funds from solidarity payments. This has been relaxed in recent years, though leagues are still advised to avoid a clash if possible.

Last week, Lorient played Lyon in Ligue 1 in a game postponed from the beginning of the season. It was scheduled on a Thursday to avoid a clash with the UCL, kicking off early at 7 p.m. local time so it would only be on at the same time as the early set of European matches.

So, the Premier League could use the European midweeks if it feels there is no other place to put the games.

Of course, that’s no good to any of the teams who are in Europe: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United.

It’s those seven clubs who pose the problems for the schedulers — and four of them play in London next weekend and could have another game called off. They are most likely to go far in both domestic cups, too.

Teams who reach the Champions League round of 16 will have two spare midweeks in February and March, but that won’t be the case for clubs who are in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League who have to play in the knockout round in February and advance through the competition.

So what’s the solution?

There may need to be some creative thinking — especially if any of next weekend’s matches have to be postponed for security reasons. The obvious solution is to cancel FA Cup replays in the third and fourth rounds once again. This happened in each of the last two seasons due to congestion caused by COVID-19 postponements and would open up the two extra midweeks required to prevent any issues further down the line.

If FA Cup replays stay in place it’s unlikely, though not impossible, those dates could be used for rearranged games because the availability of teams would only be known at short notice.

There’s no chance the Carabao Cup could be cancelled, but there may be pressure to make the semifinals one-legged to open up a midweek.

Swapping around the FA Cup final (June 3) and the last day of the Premier League (May 28) would add an extra midweek on May 30 — though the Europa League final is being played on the Wednesday of that week. There would also be additional logistical issues, as Wembley is booked for the EFL playoffs on the weekend of May 27-29, meaning this solution is very unlikely.

Can the season be extended?

No. After the FA Cup final on June 3, the Champions League final is scheduled for June 10 and immediately afterward there’s an international block reserved for Euro 2024 qualifying matches.

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