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As Wikipedia puts it...

In team sports, the term home advantage (also called home field/court/diamond/ice advantage) describes the advantage–usually a psychological advantage–that the home team is said to have over the visiting team as a result of playing in familiar facilities and in front of supportive fans. The term is also widely used in "best-of" playoff formats (e.g., best-of-seven) as being given to the team that is scheduled to play one more game at home than their opponent if all necessary games are played.

This is particularly common in Football, or Soccer (for Americans) where you actually gain more points from scoring away from your home ground.

Do you really have an advantage in a game like Football where the pitch is standardized? If so what are the real advantages of this? And are they so great that it warrants more points for scoring as an away team.

  • 1
    Did you understand that it says "psychological advantage"? Standard pitch makes no difference. – DJClayworth May 3 '11 at 17:23
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    Statistically speaking, yes, there is a home-field advantage in some sports. But I probably shouldn't go digging around sports sites for proof while still at work. – mmyers May 3 '11 at 18:12
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    Although you specifically mention standardized fields, it may be interesting to note that in at least one major international sport (baseball), field configurations differ very significantly and a knowledge of local wind patterns is an important factor in the critically-important task of estimating where a high ball will fall. – Larry OBrien May 3 '11 at 20:36
  • Actually, football pitches traditionally vary in size. The pitch is traditionally "standardized" to 50-100x100-130 yards, though apparently there's now effort to standardize 68x105 m. – dancek May 3 '11 at 21:16
  • I can (as an anecdote) say that it did when I played softball competitively. Our home field had a shorter distance to the backstop than many others. As catcher, I could deliberately let the ball go by me, turn and catch it in the air as it came off the backstop, then tag out the runner from 3rd base at home. – Darwy May 4 '11 at 22:26
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It seems that this has been well studied (particularly in the context of English Football). For example:

  • Pollard (1986) ran a retrospective analysis on home advantage in English Football, and found that "the home team currently obtain[s] about 64% of all points gained in the English Football League"

  • Clark and Norman (1995) found that a home ground advantage is "linearly related to the distance between club grounds."

Pollard suggests that the biggest factor is "familiarity with conditions when playing at home, rather than the extra mental and physical effort involved in travelling to your opponent's ground," although Clark and Norman's finding would suggest the opposite would be true.

Pollard also notes that the advantage is greatly reduced where an away win is worth more points than a home win - which may be one reason why it has become common to reward teams for away wins in knock out competitions with home and away legs.

Interestingly, Page and Page (2007) found that the team which hosts the second match of a home and away series has a significant advantage in European Cup competitions - so the extra incentive posed by rewarding away goals more highly hasn't completely levelled the playing field.

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Some recent figures from the Premiership in England:

Sea-    Home    Draw    Away    Goals   Goals 
son     wins            wins    home    away
1011    179     111      90     617     446
0910    193      96      91     645     408
0809    173      97     110     532     410
0708    176     100     104     581     421
0607    182      98     100     552     379

This kind of pattern is fairly consistent over time.

The numbers come from the official site, though you need to change from "League Table" to "Home League", choose a past complete season, and add the numbers up.

  • Not that I doubt your answer, but can you provide a link to where you found the figures, so people can verify? Thanks. – Sklivvz May 3 '11 at 20:56
  • @Sklivvz: The numbers come from the official site, though you need to change from "League Table" to "Home League", choose a past complete season, and add the numbers up. – Henry May 3 '11 at 21:01
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In the New York Times recently I read a summary of a study which says that (a) the effect is real and (b) the reason considered most likely is unconscious bias on the part of referees, umpires, and other officials. Apparently it is unpleasant to have tens of thousands of people yelling at you, and referees unconsciously make marginal decisions in favor of the home side, so as not to be booed, taunted, etc.

Sorry no citation :(

  • 2
    Let me help you out with a link – Oliver_C May 4 '11 at 21:08
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In US and Canadian major sports, this site shows some comparative figures (the site explains where its figures come from).

In baseball, hockey, and football, the home team wins about 55% of the time. The advantage is larger for basketball, about 60%. The site does some speculation on why the larger advantage, for those interested. All information is from the highest-level professional leagues.

This site refers to setting up noisy fans (human sports enthusiasts) in the right place for Minnesota Vikings games in the Metrodome. This is a local newspaper article (can't find a link to the original) about manipulation of the fans (the mechanical air-movers) to give Twins hitters an advantage.

I can't find a newspaper article from late 1987, but somebody conducted a study of fan noise by time in that World Series. They found that the Twins fans actually fell reasonably quiet when the one of the Cardinals hit the ball, and got noisier when one of the Twins did. The stadium was very loud, so Twins fielders got a certain hush to do their job in, while the Cardinals had to perform in much louder situations. The conclusion was that this likely helped the Twins.

0

Several obvious examples from the most popular American sports.

  • In Baseball the home team bats last in each inning, which means at the end of the game they know how many runs they need to win, and that they don't have to play the bottom of the ninth inning if they have the lead.
  • In Football (American, sorry, unlike soccer it has no other name) the home crowd tends to cheer loudly when their team is on defense, which benefits the defense because it makes it hard for the offense to hear the snap count and audibles. This leads to poorer execution of plays, false start, delay of game, and illegal procedure penalties, which affect field position and can change the outcome of games. For example, the Seattle Seahawks play in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL and have records for the most false start and delay of game penalties. Commentary during Seahawks home broadcasts the announcers will often describe how the visiting team had to change their practice routine to incorporate loud noises to help acclimate players to the high level of noise.

    Inside CenturyLink Field the noise level can reach as high as 137 decibels, or the equivalent of a jet engine. Indeed, this has caused problems for opposing teams, making them have numerous false starts and penalties. From 2005 through the beginning of the 2010 season, fans have caused a league-high 107 false start penalties.

  • Basketball crowds can rock the floor causing the basket to move, which can effect the ability to make free throws. It is also common for people sitting behind the opposing teams basket to wave objects while the visiting team is making free throws to create a visually chaotic and distracting background.

Lastly, regardless of sport, travel takes a toll on the visiting team, especially when game times are fixed in the home fields local time zone. Peter King has often written about the disadvantage West Coast football teams have when they have to fly to the Eastern time zone (+3 hours) and play a game at what would be 10 am local time.

  • Elsewhere in the world we sometimes call your "American Football" Gridiron. I'd like a citation on Basketball crowds rocking the floor enough to make the basket move, too! – John Lyon Aug 29 '12 at 5:35
  • @jozzas I've heard that term, but never heard anyone use it synonomously with football. No citation for the basketball, other than I've seen it myself at the University of Oregon. – Adam Wuerl Sep 1 '12 at 22:35

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