Home Field Advantage Quantified: How COVID Affected Pro Sports

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Research shows that traditional home field advantage in professional settings was reduced by nearly 50 percent last year without fans in the stadiums.

For the purpose of the study, home field advantage was inclusive to multiple aspects of the experience: refereeing, travel for visitors, home familiarity, and of course crowd noise.

The research took place in Europe across 11 countries and accounted for nearly 5,000 professional soccer matches, including some of the world’s most prestigious leagues.

The findings aren’t altogether surprising:

On average, when fans are in the stadium, home teams score about .3 more goals than opponents across the board. In 2020, home teams only scored .15 goals more than visitors.

The international football point system, similar to the NHL, also reflected the 50 percent disadvantage. Basically, home teams were earning less season points at home than ever before, which means more ties and losses were occurring at home than ever before.

The most interesting metrics belong to the refereeing, though. In 2020, referees gave more fouls to home teams than ever before, but gave a similar number of fouls to away teams as in years prior. Referees also gave far fewer yellow and red cards to away teams than in years prior, but gave about the same number of cards to home teams as in years past, despite the uptick in common fouls.

The researchers also tried to devise metrics to measure ‘dominance,’ a vague statistic based on number of corner kicks, shots, and shots on target versus an opponent.

Sure enough, home teams without fans saw downward trends in all dominance factors, while away teams saw a slight increase in dominance.

It’s the kind of study that affirms what we all know to be true, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. Even for professional athletes, who are supposed to be working and non-affected by atmosphere, the effects of home field advantage statistically matter.

Written by TK Sanders

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