### **The fixtures were released earlier than last season, but can fans expect to see them sooner again in future seasons?**\n\nThe goal is always to deliver a full schedule of fixtures with kick-off times close to eight weeks before the season starts. The league is certain more efficiencies in the process can be made ahead of next season to publish fixtures sooner again, however, while some venues are still shared with EFL clubs no substantial progress can be made until the football fixtures are known in late May or early June.\n\n### **Can you explain the process of how the fixtures are created in the first place?**\n\nOnce the rounds for the season have been identified clubs are asked to submit any venue restrictions that would require them to play away from home in any particular round. Two-week blocks for travel by northern teams to South Africa are also identified.\n\nEach territory also provides their requests for sequencing of derby games over the Christmas and New Year period. Due to broadcast agreements certain fixtures need to occur in separate rounds and when all factors have been considered they are formulated into rules.\n\nThese rules are then shared with our fixtures software providers who will create multiple schedules in order to find the best balance of home and away cadence while taking into consideration all of the conditions that are related to venues and broadcast agreements.\n\nThe final fixture list is presented to our Sports & Regulatory Committee for approval and then shared with our broadcast partners to identify kick-off times. Once this has been finalised, the schedule is shared with clubs so they may arrange their logistics for travel. Following that the fixtures are then made available to publish.\n\n### **Are there other conditions or rules that influence the fixture list?**\n\nRules related to fixtures include ensuring that tours to South Africa from teams visiting from the north play two games in succession – meaning they cannot be scheduled across breaks in calendar. For example, a team cannot be scheduled to play in South Africa in the final round before the November Internationals as it would require a second trip to complete their two-game tour a month later.\n\nLikewise, the preference for South African teams is to play three-week tours in Europe so that the need for long-haul travel is reduced.\n\nFrom season to season unique requests may also occur and one example in the 2022/23 campaign is for Connacht to play away from home in the first three rounds in order to facilitate redevelopment works at the Sportsground Stadium.\n\n### **How are kick-off times decided?**\n\nWith seven different broadcasters operating across our five territories mixed across Free to Air (FTA) and Pay TV, it is a demanding process to schedule eight games per weekend that works with available time slots and the preferences of host broadcasters.\n\nThe league also has to try and balance the requirements of clubs who have varying kick-off times that suit their local markets. The host broadcaster on each game holds the right to set the kick-off time in a pre-defined time slot although other broadcasters can ask for consideration on a different time if that is suitable.\n\nWhere challenges occur is that while Pay TV broadcasters have multiple channels, FTA broadcasters usually only have one and that limits the number of games that can occur in certain time slots. All broadcasters also hold rights to other sports properties and that can also impact channel availability.\n\nBroadcast agreements generally prevent more than two games being scheduled in any one time slot to allow for live coverage in multiple territories or because a broadcaster’s rights may extend to a specific time slot. FTA broadcasters in the same country will not compete with each other so for example on Fridays, two Irish teams cannot play at the same time and two Welsh teams cannot play at the same time.\n\nThis is a general rule also applied in South Africa with their four teams. All of this is considered during a group meeting with all broadcasters present and when all kick-off times are decided it is presented back to the SRC committee and clubs for final review.\n\n### **What other factors have an impact on scheduling of rounds or kick-off times?**\n\nClubs may have restrictions around venue availability for a number of reasons at certain times of the year. Teams that share grounds with football or other sports teams may have to avoid certain weekends or may only have one day in a weekend with access to the stadium.\n\nTurnaround times are also a big factor in ensuring teams have enough time to recover and prepare for their next fixture and six-day turnarounds are the shortest that generally occur. Five-day turnarounds on fixtures are avoided unless absolutely necessary and agreed by the clubs involved. This list is not exhaustive, but should provide some clarity on the various factors at play when it comes to scheduling.\n\n### **The DHL Stormers’ fixture with the Cell C Sharks in Round 1 has been moved to February, why is this?**\n\nWith extra weekends available to the South African teams during the Six Nations period, some derbies can take place during that time. With the Rugby Championship occurring during the first two rounds of URC, the two teams involved requested to utilise a weekend where they would have greater access to their international players. This is preferred from a sporting integrity perspective for derby games as it means both teams have equal access to their international players.\n\nThe same reasoning is also the rationale for the R7 Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks fixture taking place in February and not October.\n\n### **The regular season ends in April and the URC Grand Final takes place May, why is the season ending early and not in June?**\n\nTo facilitate the preparation of national squads in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales for the Rugby World Cup it was decided to align the end of URC season with the Gallagher Premiership schedule.