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Home Team Advantage Analysis

Posted by Tomáš Molnár

Home Team

One might ask himself: “What is the impact of playing home in winning the game?” Some competitions are suspiciously in favor of home teams and in some competitions it looks like playing home or away doesn’t matter. Let’s have a closer look at my personal experience and end up analyzing a few European football leagues over the past decade.

 

Introduction

I come from Slovakia and I played football on lower competition level in my boyhood times. We were all aware of corruption and money that referees received from mostly home teams just to make sure they won. Of course it was not in every match. Sorry to say it this way, but in some cases it was better to have game pre-arranged. Some stadium bullies would beat the crap out of referees and opponent´s players in case of their team’s failure. So my initial assumption was that in small competitions this happens more often than in big leagues where all the pundits can watch the game over TV, internet and openly criticize referees’ performance. Note: criticizing referees is for some strange reason forbidden by FIFA, UEFA and national football associations.

 

Analysis

Let’s take some of European competitions (top 5 English, top 4 Scottish, top 2 Spanish and a few others). Out of games from the past decade (since 2004/2005), the ratio of home team wins gives very interesting results:

Country League level Home Wins Total games % of Home Wins
Netherland 1 1603 3312 48.4
Spain 1 1972 4080 48.33
England 1 1915 4099 46.72
Italy 1 1886 4078 46.25
Spain 2 2253 4961 45.41
Scotland 4 874 1955 44.71
England 5 2341 5319 44.01
Italy 2 2189 4993 43.84
England 3 2615 5983 43.71
England 2 2611 5987 43.61
Scotland 3 852 1956 43.56
Scotland 1 1057 2457 43.02
England 4 2512 5987 41.96
Scotland 2 808 1951 41.41

 

For those who do not see the outcomes clearly there are 2 main conclusions we can draw from this test:

  1. In Scotland there is no significant impact if team is playing home or away, not in first, nor in the fourth league level.
  2. Higher level of competition shows bigger occurrence of home teams winning. And this finding was shocking to me a bit. I tried a few more competitions and we can generalize that in average there is 2 – 3 percent difference between first league level and non-first league level competitions in European football (22 leagues examined).

Let’s have a look if the trend is not very recent on analyzing Spanish Primera Division:

Taking out the two most extreme values, values are within +/- 3% related to median. That can be considered as stable. Recent season 2014/2015 at the time of writing article was perfectly matching median, underlining the trend.

 

Summary

First league teams win more home matches likely because of:

  1. Big money put in (money laundering and teams trying to win European cup spots)
  2. Big crowds chanting players’ names can boost home team to make the difference (in Scotland there is not significant attendance ~9000 per game for Premier League, ~7500 for Championship, taking Celtic and Rangers out we get significantly lower numbers ~5500 / ~4500. Attendance on League One and League Two is below 1000 per game)
  3. Something else (Maybe famous players being lazy to run when not playing in front of fanclub?) :-)

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