Does the home advantage of football clubs still exist without supporters?

The Guardian
Erasmus School of Economics

Research finds that football teams retain their home advantage when playing with no crowd, questioning previous notions that this home advantage results from supporters shouting and singing for their club. In an article from British daily newspaper The Guardian, Thomas Peeters, Sports Economist at Erasmus School of Economics, points out that the results of the research may not accurately capture the truth.  

An ideal opportunity

When Covid-19 hit, many believed that the home advantage clubs enjoy because of their supports would disappear. Researchers have long investigated the home advantage phenomenon but did not reach consensus on which are the main drivers. The bans on spectators during Covid offered scientists an ideal opportunity to measure the impact of crowd support on match outcomes. The study compares more than 1,000 professional matches played without spectators and more than 35,000 matches with a crowd across 10 professional leagues in different countries.

Inaccurate picture of reality

The research finds that without home supporters, home advantage fell by about a third, but the drop was not found to be statistically significant. According to Thomas Peeters, the study may not accurately capture the true impact of the crowd on home advantage. Not all games in the research were played behind closed doors and those that were spectator-less were also towards the end of the season, a period usually seen as a make-or-break time for teams. Peeters believes that data from the 2020-21 season would have resulted in a better experiment.

Not a real problem

Peeters also points out that home advantage is not really a problem in a round robin tournament such as the English Premier League where home advantage is exchanged. ‘It is tournaments like the FA Cup when you play only one game at someone’s ground when it is problematic. Generally, home teams sell the tickets to home fans and home fans are pretty happy when they win. So, increasing the chance of that happening might not be such a big problem … give the customer what the customer wants.’

More information

The full article from The Guardian, 31 March 2021, can be found here