Bundesliga - Home-field Advantage Doesn't Exist?
Home-field advantage is not specific or unique to football, it exists within most of the sports we enjoy, In baseball 54% of the teams win at home, in the NBA this is 62.7%, In cricket this is 60.2% and In the NFL and Rugby internationals it stands at around 60%. These figures clearly show that home teams pose to have an advantage in competitive sport. However within football this number has been as high as nearly 70% in some comeptitve leagues such as the MLS, but why is there an advantage?
Many researchers over the last 30 years have looked to explain the home-field advantage theory, Moskowitz and Wertheim tried to tee that theory that the crowed's behavior had an influence on the performance of the players, and so, when playing away from home players struggled to manage with the environment. However their research found that the noise of the stadium had no correlation to performance, the louder stadiums really had no substantial impact on players performance.
However it may actually be that the home players feel an increase in testosterone and cortisole by playing infront of their own fans, although this research has had some conflicting results. It has been suggested that players do receive an increase and so are able to perform at higher levels and remain more engaged.
The second theory with home field avantage is that travel becomes taxing on players, and consequently they find it difficult to perform when away from home. However Moskowitz and Wertheim found that this also had little to no effect on performance. Away games within the same city, had the safe 'Home-field advantage' to when teams traveled from east to west coast, meaning the length of travel had no baring.
Another theory has existed that home teams benefit from playing within their own climate, they become acustom to the weather, the wind, the surface and are able to take advantage of the opponent who are adapting to the changing conditions. However it is difficult to back this with any evidence as home field advantage still occurs when players play in basketball courts in indoor conditions on identical courts, and when NFL teams play in dome like conditions.
One of the more likely influences on performance are the match officials. Moskowitz and Wertheim found that match officials are actually more likely to side with the home team, not because they are cheats, but they are naturally influenced by the pressure of the crowed and the environment they are placed within. Meaning the conditions are more favorable for the home team. Research has shown that this is even more likely to occur within Football due to its physical demands on match officials are the strain this can apply to their decision making.
Is this one of the key reasons as to why the Bundesliga has seen a dramatic change in home-field advantage since the league restarted without fans, after the coronavirus outbreak. Since the league has restarted away teams are 41.3% more likely to win away from home. Home wins in general are down by 24.3% and away wins have increased by 17%. But for what reason is this purely down to the lack of pressure applied to match officials, or are we seeing a trend where home-field advantage is slowely being aradicated?
It may actually be that home-field advantage in football, might not be as great as previously believed, during 1895 65% of teams won at home. This has slowely declined each season, and last year stood at just 47% meaning away teams were able to pick up points in 53% of away games. The match official influence stll exists with 64% of penalities being awarded to home teams within the Premier League.
However the decline in home field advantage can also be associated to the change in tactics and the increase in defensive organisation. Away teams are much more comfortable defending within deep blocks and confident allowing the opponent to control possession of the ball, Home teams also feel increased pressure to attack at home in modern football and this can leave them vulnrable to the counter attack adding to the success of the away team.
In conclusion it is clear to see that the myth of Home-field advantage is slowly becoming a distant memory in football, although the Bundesliga might be exaggerating the impact of the away team during this strange time for football, it is clear that the advantage doesn't exist, especially not to the same extent as it did 20 years ago.
The recent Bundesliga restart does however pose some intresting question to analysts and fans, why are teams more comofrtable traveling away from home? Is the testosterone levels of home players negatively impacted by the lack of support at home? Whilst away players relish the chance to play away from home with out abuse and noise? Are match officials less bias without the influence of 30,000+ people trying to influence the decision of indviduals, or is it that the small set of data set will show this is just an early patern and not a trend.