PATAT 2010: Multi-objective Sports (Football) Scheduling


At the recent PATAT (8th International Conference on the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling) conference I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a plenary presentation.

My talk focussed on sports scheduling. Indeed, the title was “Scheduling Football (Soccer) Fixtures: Progress Made to Date and Future Challenges“. I focussed on the conflicting objectives when trying to minimise travel distances, whilst also trying to reduce pair clashes (which can be considered as local derbies for the sake of this discussion).

This is a classic case of a multi-objective problem where minimising one objective causes the other to increase and vice versa. It is not (usually) possible to minimise both objectives, instead you are looking for a trade off. These are plotted on a pareto front where a user would then decide which trade off solution is the best.

In the plenary talk, I showed that it was possible to reduce both the distance and the pair clashes such that (sometimes) the distance did not significantly increase. This is a potentially useful result as it means that supporters do not have to travel any further (statistically) and the policing costs are reduced as they do not have to police so many local derbies.

I should say that this result is only work in progress at the moment in that it has not been verified by the football authorities or the police, but I would hope that it would be of interest to them.

In the same talk, I also discussed how I collected the data for this work (which essentially is the various distances between football clubs). This involved using Google maps and Multimap APIs. I’ll talk about this in the next blog. I’ll also provide a link to the paper (as I don’t have it to hand at the moment). But, if you are interested the reference is:

Kendall G., McCollum B., Cruz F. and McMullan P. (2010) Scheduling English Football Fixtures: Consideration of Two Conflicting Objectives. In proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling (PATAT 2010), 11-13 August 2010, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK, pp 1-15

and you can access the paper here.

Other PATAT posts can be seen here.