How empty stadiums affected football performance
Playing professional football games in empty stadiums had a hugely negative effect on home teams, with success almost halved. It is no secret that playing at an away game is more difficult than most other competitions because of the difficulty to rally support and energy from your fans when you’re not there. The study found this phenomena caused by these artificially-created homes were observed across all major leagues as well
Published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, a study examines whether home advantage applies when fans are not present. The Covid-19 pandemic created an opportunity to test this hypothesis by examining how teams performed at home during that period.
A team’s success in the English Premier League and Championship, German Bundesliga 1 & 2, Spanish La Liga 1&2 Austria Bundesliga can be predicted by their % of possession. When a team has more than 55% possession they are almost always victorious–winning about 66% of games on average compared to 41%. For teams with between 45%-55%, it is much worse-they win only 40% on average (versus 60%). Teams who have less than 25% either lose or draw around 95 percent of matches regardless if they play against professionals or amateurs. This data indicates that having control over the ball creates an overwhelming advantage for any side with even just moderate skill management skills rather far outweighs other factors like luck and tactics.
They found that home teams accrued significantly fewer points and scored fewer goals when crowds were absent. On average:
- With fans present, teams won 0.39 points more per game at home than away
- With fans absent, the advantage was almost halved; teams won only 0.22 points more at home than away
- With fans present, home teams scored 0.29 goals more per game than away teams
- With fans absent, home teams scored just 0.15 goals more than visitors.
The lack of crowds also affected how referees judged fouls against home and away sides. The data showed:
- Referees gave more fouls against the home team in empty stadiums
- Referees gave a similar number of fouls against the away team in empty stadiums
- Referees gave far fewer yellow cards against away teams in empty stadiums
- Referees gave similar numbers of yellow cards against the home team in empty stadiums – even though they fouled more
- Red cards followed a similar pattern which was less pronounced, yet still significant
Home field advantage is a well-documented phenomenon in sports, but this study found that it also affects how dominant the home team becomes. When playing at their stadium or arena, teams are more likely to win by large margins than when they travel and someone else’s venue provides an environment for them to play on.
Previous studies have shown that goals scored and points awarded during away games compare similarly with those played at home stadiums; however there has been no evidence of whether homeside dominance changes depending on where you’re playing your matches–until now! This groundbreaking new research from University of Leeds reveals some surprising results: Games won while hosting tend to be characterized by wide margin victories over opponents who typically only enjoy narrow wins themselves (or even losses