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Is there such a thing as a Home Advantage?

Going back to football without crowds will be strange and much has been said about the lack of a home advantage due to the lack of supporters at a match, but is this the main or only factor in creating a home advantage?

After drawing in an away match to West Brom, after the game, Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers looked forward to the following week’s fixture with Arsenal due to the home advantage they had been receiving in the season. Rodgers stated that “I sense the belief, we love playing there” when he was asked how he felt about playing at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC. Rodgers went on to explain “We genuinely go into every home game expecting to win- no matter who we are playing”. These comments followed Liverpool’s home form of winning ten games, drawing one and losing one for the season so far (Pearce, 2014).

A theory that best describes and gives reason to this performance is the ‘Home Advantage’ theory (Courneya & Carron, 1992). An audience having an impact on the outcome of a sporting event is known as a ‘Home Advantage’ (Schwartz & Barsky, 1977). A home advantage is described as the home team winning 50% of the games they have played in (Courneya & Carron, 1992). This home advantage theory has been shown to happen in a variety of sports from Ice Hockey (Agnew & Carron, 1994), Basketball (Varca, 1980; Moore & Brylinsky, 1993) and American Football (Pollard, 1986).

Agnew & Carron (1994) support the theory by stating that the only predictor for the outcome of a sporting team game is crowd density. This theory was then supported by Nevil, et al., (1996) in a study that concluded that football teams with larger crowds had the significant home advantage. The theory has been modified and a model has been created that believes there are three categories to home advantage and performance outcomes; “game location, location factors and critical psychological states” (Carron, et al., 2005; Bray & Martin, 2003). This model supports the original framework but also updates it, giving a slightly different view. The game location factors of the model take into account the crowd size and density, familiarisation with the stadium and setting and finally the travel factors involved for the away team e.g. five hour journeys to arrive at an opposing team’s stadium. It is believed that the biggest contribution to the home advantage is the crowd support and size (Carron, et al., 2005) and that lack of familiarity with the venue only has a small contribution to the game outcome.

The idea of home advantage that originated with Courneya & Carron (1992) has been shown in much research and studies since. Bray (1999) argues that home advantage should be defined as “home winning percentage minus the away winning percentage being greater than 5%”. This is because Courneya & Carron (1992), Agnew & Carron (1994), Moore & Brylinsky (1993) and Varca (1980), alongside all other previous research on home advantage, did not take into account the away record of any teams. If the away and home record are equally as good, the results must be down to other factors and not just playing at the home stadium.

Page & Page (2007) looked at how the home advantage in football, more specifically the European football cup competitions, has elaborated on research that has previously been done on the sport of football regarding home advantage in English football. (Barnett & Hilditch, 1993; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Pollard, 2006). This research showed similar results to the research before it, showing that “there is a significant home advantage effect in all three European football competitions”.

It appears that home advantage in football is an international occurring factor in competitions throughout Europe, Sanchez, et al. (2009) discovered that the top two divisions in Spanish football had the same familiarity as English football in that the home team had a significant advantage (Barnett & Hilditch, 1993; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Pollard, 2006).

To further the evidence of a home advantage in sport, Pollard (2002) conducted research which provided evidence that a team moving to a new stadium reduces the home advantage factor, proving that Courneya & Carron (1992) and Carron, et al.(2005) are correct in their conclusions of research regarding the familiarity of the home stadium being one of the key factors to home advantage. Van de Ven (2013) supports this notion by concluding that “no home advantage exists in games in which the visiting team is equally familiar with the stadium as the home team is, even if the home team has the most crowd support”. This therefore shows that familiraity with the stadium is a key variable in having a home advantage, as both teams having a similar familiarity will result in no home advantage.

Having said this, Koning (2011) noted that home advantage had been tested and researched many times in team games but had not very often been looked at for individual sports such as tennis. Koning’s findings when studying men’s and women’s tennis found that although the outcomes had been, for the men’s game, as expected and in line with previous home advantage research, woman’s tennis appears to be unaffected by the home advantage phenomenon.

The idea of home advantage is often shown through theories and the relationship between the location and the crowd size and distance travelled by competitors but there are few studies that take into account the competitors own thoughts and feelings towards home advantage. Jurkovac (1985) completed a surveyed 74 basketball players with findings that 76% of the surveyed players had greater self-confidence levels when playing at home.

Liverpool FC can be shown to be an example of the Courneya & Carron (1992) Home Advantage model due to the reliance on home form that is explained by Brendan Rodgers during an interview (Pearce, 2014). Liverpool had recently had a frustrating match at West Brom and Rodgers stated that “Any successful team has to have real strong home form. Over the course of this season to win 10 games, draw one and lose one, that’s a brilliant record”. The interview perceived expectancy on Liverpool when playing at home. Courneya & Carron (1992) explains that this run of results at home is most likely due to factors such as the familiarity with the stadium and the pitch and the fact that teams spend hours travelling to the matches. Another important factor highlighted in this model is crowd size, Liverpool FC have an average attendance 44,672 for the current season at Anfield. This amount of home support and the results, stated by Brendan Rodgers in the interview, concurs with the previously mentioned models of Bray & Martin (2003 and Carron, et al. (2005). Looking at this further using Bray’s (1999) formula to calculate home advantage of “home winning percentage minus the away winning percentage being greater than 5%”.; Liverpool have an 85.7% home win rate and a 42.8% win rate away (espn, 2014), thus proving Liverpool do have a home advantage as the final result is 42.9%.

Converting this into a potential research study , it is possible to use several methods to ensure it is possible to gain a full understanding. Firstly, it is possible to use a simple calculation to see if Home Advantage is present. This is Bray (1999) formula in which the home and away wins will need to be converted into separate percentages, followed by a subtraction on the away percentage from the home. If this result is more than 5 per cent, there is a home advantage present, as the Sharks are clearly winning more home games.

Another potential way of accessing this information could be to use a process similar to Jurkovac (1985) and giving questionnaires to players after every match in a season. The questionnaires may ask if the player felt the crowd influenced the result, if they felt tired from the journey they had had before the game and whether that had an influence on the result (Courneya & Carron, 1992). This questionnaire may use a Likert scale (Likert, 1932) in which a performer rates the answer to the given questions on a 1 to 10 scale. This will provide an opportunity to creating a scoring system which will help to analyse results.

Collecting this data will then allow a t test to be conducted (Jackson, 2010). This t test will have two variables, home and away, and will be able to tell if there is a significant difference between the results of each player in home and away settings, after matches.

If there is a significant difference between the two results on each question, the coach and the club as a whole will have the opportunity to  manipulate the current settings and variables highlighted by the questionnaire and Courneya & Carron (1992) e.g. the club could travel to away games a day early to avoid tiredness and travelling on a match day as the New York Giants have previously (Boscamp, 2013), or perhaps to combat being beaten by crowd density could offer travel to Miami Sharks supporters to away matches in order to increase the amount of away support as shown by Chelsea and Stoke City football clubs (Draper, 2013).

As so much of this research is based or including crowds during competition, it would certainly be interesting to get a more definitive answer of home advantage now that crowds will not be present and whether factors such as simply knowing the stadium and the changing rooms etc. will have an affect on the home advantage.


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