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Often you hear about the team whose ground the match is being played at having a "home advantage".

During a discussion with a friend they said teams go as far as to style the opposing teams changing room to play mind games; i.e. making the room layout hard for discussion, and the colour scheme being dull so as to lower any motivation.

Personally I thought this was a bit too far (sportsmanship anyone?), but I was curious as to what actually contributes to a home advantage?

Additionally, does anyone know of any studies/ statistics which can prove whether the home advantage is merely a myth, or is a real thing?

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There is some evidence (presented in Freakonomics IIRC) that suggests that the home field team gets an officiating advantage in American football. No clue what the research for international football is, but it will be interesting to see if someone can look towards some studies here. –  wax eagle Feb 10 '12 at 13:47
    
See also Wikipedia article: Home advantage. –  Martin Jul 26 at 7:03

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I'm not posting this as an answer to rival the others as I feel they are excellent answers.

However, this is pertinent to the question, it's interesting and it is going to be longer than a comment.

Why it's better to be the home team

I've read a number of articles over the years about how playing an away game can be a considerable disadvantage above the obvious difference in supporter numbers. Here are some that I recall.

  1. Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium's away team dressing room is 'L'-shaped. Not only does this subconciously suggest "Lose" but it makes inter-team communication more difficult as the manager has to talk around a corner.
  2. It was noted that some away dressing rooms had the tactics board in full view of the corridor.
  3. During a Champion's league game between Chelsea and Barcelona it was suggested that the away team dressing room only had three working showers and one mirror.
  4. Away teams have considerably less space to get prepared. The home side often has adequate locker space for 4 or 5 pairs of boots and plenty of bench space to get ready whereas away dressing rooms are often smaller, more cramped affairs.
  5. Simple luxuries. Huge TV screens, ice baths, carpets, more treatment tables etc.
  6. I recall Roy Keane ensuring that Sunderland's away dressing room had pictures of Sunderland winning all over it as a bit of a mind game.
  7. The away team probably slept in a hotel the night before the match whereas the home players would have slept in their own beds.
  8. The away team may have travelled a considerable distance/time and may be fatigued as a result.

Finally, a couple of interesting articles:

The Guardian

The Independent

And here's a BBC Magazine article on "The Science of Home Advantage".

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I can think of three key factors that are quite logical conjectures.

  1. The crowd is more than likely cheering for them, and cheering against their opponent. It gets very loud on the pitch and very hard to concentrate. For example in American football, the guard often has to signal the center to snap because the center can't hear the quarterback because it's so loud. This causes great confusion and miscommunication. The morale aspect is important too.
  2. The home team is more familiar with the field. Is this field easier to slip on than most? Is the grass longer? The environmental factors and familiarity will give you an edge over your opponent, as they need to consciously adjust their style to suit the field, while you, having practiced on this field and played on this field, have a much more natural attunement to it.
  3. Lack of travel. Travel is very exhausting, even when you have professional clubs who spare no expense in keeping the players comfortable. You lose a day of preparation traveling as well, but the home team gets that extra day to stay loose and freshen up. If the away team is on the second or third consecutive travel, it can take a pretty heavy toll on their mental and physical state.

As for how big it is the advantage is, a study has indicated that for every 10,000 people in the stands, a home team in the English Premiership will score an additional 0.1 goals, on average. Wikipedia sums this up to 37% more goals, although how they reach that from the article presented is at present unclear. It is significant enough that they now track 'away goals' as a way to break ties.

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not sure how common this is in other sports but in baseball the grounds crew will sometimes communicate with the home players about how they want the grass cut etc. –  wax eagle Feb 11 '12 at 4:35

There have been quite a few studies in football/soccer discussing home field advantage.

In blog post titled "Home Field Advantage: What You See Depends On Where You Look (And What You Make Of Draws)", Chris Anderson writes about a book discussing home field advantage in football:

In these chapters, Moskowitz and Wertheim first document that the home field advantage is ubiquitous across different team sports, as well as across leagues and over time. They also argue that most of the advantage home teams seem to have stems from referee decisions, rather than things like travel, schedule, weather, or any other number of factors that have been proposed over the years.

The abstract for "Home advantage in soccer: A retrospective analysis" (full article must be purchased) notes:

The existence of home advantage has been established for all major professional team sports in England and North America. The advantage was found to be greatest in soccer, with the home team currently obtaining about 64% of all points gained in the English Football League. Home advantage has changed very little since the formation of the League in 1888 and there are only small variations between the four Divisions of the League. The advantage is less marked in local derbies, in the FA Cup and in non‐professional competitions. It is greater in the European Cup and increases as the stages of the competition progress. The allocation of three points, instead of two, for a win in the Football League has not changed home advantage, but its effect has been greatly reduced in the GM Vauxhall Conference where an away win gains more points than a home win. The statistical evidence suggests that crowd support and travel fatigue contribute less to home advantage in soccer than do the less easily quantifiable benefits of familiarity with conditions when playing at home.

From these two resources and information from this thread, it appears that the subconscious biases exhibited by referees and the familiarity of home conditions play the largest factors in home field advantage.

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+1 for great sources. It's weird that in my head I had contributed crowd support as the main reason, and had disregarded a teams familiarity with conditions.. how wrong was I! –  Matt Feb 10 '12 at 18:08
    
@matt, I was surprised too - I thought that crowd support and fatigue would've been larger factors than familiarity with the home conditions. –  JW8 Feb 10 '12 at 18:13

Being extremely interested in this myself, I used data taken from the English 2010-2011 season in the Premier League, Championship and divisions 1 and 2, to compile the following statistics;

Division       | # of Games | % Home Wins | % Away Wins | % Draws | # Home Wins | # Away Wins | # Draws | 
Premier League | 380        | 47.1        | 23.7        | 29.2    | 179         | 90          | 111     | 
Championship   | 552        | 44.6        | 28.6        | 26.8    | 246         | 158         | 148     | 
League 1       | 552        | 45.1        | 30.1        | 24.8    | 249         | 166         | 137     | 
League 2       | 552        | 40.8        | 28.8        | 30.4    | 225         | 159         | 168     |
TOTAL          | 2036       | 44.2        | 28.1        | 27.7    | 899         | 573         | 564     |

From this, it's easy to see that the team playing at home has a considerable advantage.

1 idea we could perhaps draw from this is that the environment provided by the spectators play a role in the size of the home advantage; the attendance at matches dwindle the further down the leagues we go, and we can also see that the %age of home wins drops as well.

Indeed, these provides the stats/data that was asked for in the question, but as for reasons why, I'll leave others to answer!

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Your numbers for premier league do not add up to 100%. I suspect draws is the problem. You have a higher away win % than draw %, but you have more draw # than away win #. –  corsiKa Feb 10 '12 at 21:17
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@corsiKa: Whoops. At least this means people actually looked into the stats (... and fixed) :P –  Matt Feb 11 '12 at 4:04

I realize your question isn't about ice hockey, but there is one advantage in the rules that the home team gets in the NHL.

The home team gets "last change". This means that, on a faceoff, for instance, when both teams are changing, the visiting team has to make their line change before the home team does. This gives the home team the ability to tailor their players or pick a specific line to match whoever the visiting team has sent out. This tends to be something like putting out your top defensive pairing if the other team sends out their first line, or putting out your first line if the other team sends out their fourth.

Some coaches rely heavily on line-matching and it is much easier to do when you have "home ice advantage" due to the first change rule.

More Information

82.1 Line Change - Following the stoppage of play, the visiting team shall promptly place a line-up on the ice ready for play and no substitution shall be made from that time until play has been resumed. The home team may then make any desired substitution, except in cases following an icing, which does not result in the delay of the game.

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