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Monday, September 27, 2021

Explained: How empty stadiums affected football performance, refereeing

A new study used the unique opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic to test whether home advantage applies when fans are not present in the stands.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 14, 2021 7:34:11 am
Football, football stadium, Empty football stadiums, Northumbria University, indian express, indian express news, sports news, football newsAn empty football stadium (AP Photo/File)

Playing professional football games in empty stadiums had a hugely negative effect on the success of home teams, with home advantage almost halved, according to the findings of a new study by the University of Leeds and Northumbria University.

Published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, the study used the unique opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic to test whether home advantage applies when fans are not present in the stands.

Researchers used data from Football-Data.co.uk and the FiveThirtyEight online database to assess 4,844 games across 11 countries, including the England Premier League and Championship, Germany Bundesliga 1 and 2, Spanish La Liga 1 and 2, Italian Serie A and B, Portuguese Primeira Liga, Greek Super League, Turkish Super Lig, Austrian Bundesliga, Danish Superligaen, Russian Premier League and Swiss Super League.

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

Previous studies on home advantage have considered how goals scored and points awarded at home games compared with performance at away matches. This study is the first to consider whether home advantage affects a team’s dominance over a game, the University of Leeds said.

Source: University of Leeds

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