“Home Advantage” is the term the football fraternity uses to emphasize the edge that a hosting team has over one that has travelled for the same fixture.
Most team sporting codes use the phrase “home advantage”, so it is not limited to football. The expression falls away a bit with individual ‘tour-type’ sports, as home advantage is rarely mentioned in professional tennis, golf or motor-racing.
The hypothesis is that when playing at home, teams have an added advantage due to a number of factors. Firstly, the home team are playing in familiar territory, and know the layout of the ground & surroundings better than a team visiting from a different geographic location – a town or city or country.
After all, this would be a ground where a team plays 50% of its games. Some teams have been known to ‘doctor’ their home pitch to suit their type of play.
Secondly the home team usually has more of their fans cheering them on, giving them extra motivation to perform. This is not always the case in some countries. For example, a club like Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates can have a majority of fans, even in some away games.
Additionally, the visiting team is also at a disadvantage in that they would have travelled a long distance to get to the match venue. There are occasions when teams play “away”, but travel only a few kilometres within the same area, especially for local derbies.
But often, this travel takes them to a place with different weather conditions and a different altitude, with teams struggling to acclimatize in time to deliver peak physical performance. The reasons are many.
Some have gone so far as to believe fans can influence the referee’s performance, but that is a story for a different article altogether. The graph below shows the percentage of league games won by the home team in the PSL, over time.
We can see that the percentage of home wins has increased massively in the PSL this season. The stats go as far back as the 1996/97 season, and indicate that the 2019/20 season (relatively) has a higher home win percentage than any of the last six PSL seasons. This season has also seen the second highest home win percentage of the decade, and the fifth highest overall. There are actually more home wins in this incomplete season than there were in the full 2009/10 season (84).
The table above shows where 2019/20 ranks compared to other seasons.
Where clubs share a ground (like Inter Milan & AC Milan share the San Siro in Italy), the case for home advantage is even more interesting. The travel factor surely falls away, given that the venue is the same as the away fixture.
However, the ticket allocation will be done such that the home team gets more tickets. In addition, where stadiums are full and there are reserved areas for away fans, the ‘away’ fans would sit in the away section.
While the increase is simpler to find, the reasons for the increase are more complex to identify. For starters, the 2019/20 stat could be an anomaly, and with the season yet to conclude, that stat could still drop further. If 25 of the remaining 54 games end as home wins, the 45.7% will remain the same. If 30 or more of the last 54 games end as home wins, then the 2019/20 season would set a new record.
Perhaps, once the season is finished, we can revisit this, and get some answers as to why.
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By Opta Jabu