In most sports, the advantage of playing games at home is commonly accepted as a reality, but is it really true? Is playing at home an advantage in football? If yes, how do we measure that advantage?
Most mathematical models applied to forecast goals use different parameters depending on whether the team plays at home or away. For example, in a basic Poisson betting model different values are used in terms of defense and attack strength.
The advantage of the local team (or advantage of playing at home) is evident in the English Premier League (EPL), with 135 local victories in the 2016/17 season of the English Premier League, as opposed to 92 visiting victories, the result being medium from 1.60 to 1.20.
However, as we have mentioned in the past when analyzing how to create a betting model, the selected metric is important. It can be argued that the average result is 1-1, therefore there is no proof that there is a difference.
Why you should consider the goal difference
In their analysis of the home team’s advantage in the EPL, they investigated whether there are indications that the teams have a better performance at home. To find out, they considered the goal difference, instead of just the result.
That is, if a team lost 0-1 at home and 4-0 away from home, it means that the team has some kind of advantage at home, despite losing both games. They could not find a specific trend but their work, Home Team Advantage in English Premier League, offers a very interesting reading.
While the study mentioned above provides a magnificent reflection on the advantage of playing at home as a general concept, it also analyzes how it benefits the teams in particular. Liverpool is an example that stands out due to a constant decrease in the advantage of playing at home in recent times, compared to the advantage of playing at home of Arsenal, which seems to have been very irregular during the same period.
What contributes to the advantage of the local team?
There is always some subjectivity when applying models, hence it is necessary to consider the possible factors that explain why there may be the advantage of playing at home.
Often, bettors will consider the impact of distance traveled in the NFL, where teams can travel more than 3,000 kilometers to play a game (the longest distance between two Premier League stadiums this season, Newcastle and Swansea, is 570 kilometers).
Apart from the national competitions, the teams will have to travel further distances to compete in European competitions, such as the Champions League and the Europa League. Since the teams will have to make round trips due to these matches in a short period of time, the advantage of playing at home could be more pronounced both in European games played away from home and in games played away from home. After returning from a European party.
Another factor that contributes to the advantage of playing at home could be the number of spectators. The claim that fans act as “player number 12” on the field remains debatable, especially when teams like West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur have increased their capacity with new stadiums , but still suffered a decline in their performance.
A presentation at the last International Conference on Sport and Mathematics (June 2017) suggested that it could be bad arbitration decisions, since more and more of those decisions are modified later after a claim.
I am also very interested in seeing if the spectators exert any influence on the local team when it comes to scoring more goals or conceding less, that is, if the change in intensity varies depending on whether the home team or visitor scores or fits a goal. This could entail evaluating if there is any difference between the matches at home and away from the moment in which the first goal is scored.