How strong is the home advantage in sports?

Home benefit factors play a part in betting decisions

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When betting, of course, there are many factors to consider in order to succeed. Every thorough analysis is based on the evaluation of data. But even insider information is worth gold and it can help decide in case of doubt, whether a bet should be risked or not. The betting base tries to map all facets of a sporting event to control chance and make the most likely predictions.

In this article, we take a dedicated look at the topic of “home benefit”. It is more than obvious that playing in front of a home crowd is a special situation for the athletes. The motivation to win in a ‘home’ environment is higher, especially since a kind of “defence of the field” can also play a subconscious role. In the following sections, we will discuss the home advantage and the various arguments as to why home teams succeed significantly more often. But we do not want to ignore the negative effects such as pressure and expectations.

The psychological components of home advantage

Once you start getting a little familiar with numbers, data and facts, you will quickly realize that almost all clubs perform much better at home than away. At home, the teams score more goals and score more points. Favourites seem to be almost invincible with a home crowd behind them and even outsiders create surprising results in front of their own fans. The first component of the home advantage is certainly the support from the fans. The extra fans for the home side do create motivation for the home team, as well as pressure for the visiting club. Above all, clubs that build on an incomparable fan atmosphere, are considered particularly ‘home strong’.

British studies showed a correlation between home games and an increased concentration of testosterone, which in turn provides analogies from evolutionary psychology because even in the animal kingdom, it is such that the defence of a “territory” is accompanied by increased aggressiveness. With one’s own homeland in danger, then testosterone can give the “defenders” an extra thrust.

Familiarity and better adaptability

For national teams, the home advantage is also not to be dismissed out of hand. The best examples are the South American teams Ecuador and Bolivia, who can not only build on their own fans at home but also on the special climatic conditions. The advantage of these teams is that the players are used to the extreme highs of the Andes. This is accompanied by a special climatic condition. Since other players are not accustomed to the high altitude air, fatigue and despondency sets in after about 60 minutes of playing time, while the home teams in the final phase (and before) have great advantages.

The climate can also play an unwanted role, as well as the arrival conditions and the preparation for the match! Another reason for the home advantage is that the home team usually have a better preparatory phase to the game. While away teams often only arrive a few days before the match and often even only have a final training session on site, the home teams in a familiar environment can optimally prepare for the match, especially since no travel hardships are incurred, which is also good for physical regeneration. The familiarity with environment and stadium creates a situation of stability, which also has a performance-enhancing effect.

Home advantage thanks to referee bias?

In addition to the support of their own fans, climatic conditions and the shorter journey to the stadium, there are certainly other parameters that affect the home advantage. The book Scorecasting of Moskowitz and Wertheim deals with football data. The researchers have studied many myths and theories of football. With regard to the home advantage, it should be said that the referee’s influence is not to be underestimated. What many have guessed is thus based on data secured: home teams are slightly more preferred by the referee.

Of course, there is no manipulation of a match, after all, the referees are impartial. However, even the referees are subject to subconscious decision-making processes. Referees do not like to whistle a penalty against a home team, but more often for the home team. Also, cards are given more regularly to the away teams and less to the players of the home team, since referees (at least internally) do not want to indulge the displeasure of the dominating audience mass. According to the analysis, this relationship is stronger the younger the senior referees are in the match.

Home Benefit Statistics

The qualitative advantages have already been described, now it’s time to get down to business and statistics, and there are a few surprises, even though it has already been said that the national teams also have some immense advantages in front of a home crowd, especially in qualifying. In large tournaments, however, there are also some situations that also generate immense pressure from a home advantage. England became world champion in 1966 at home. The same applies to Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (1998). Uruguay (1930) and Italy (1934) also achieved this feat. Nevertheless, only 6 out of 20 World Championships were won and thus only 30% of the home teams were successful. Although the home advantage in the tournaments can help, it can also provide an immense pressure of expectation.

This was painfully experienced by Brazil at the 2014 World Cup when the team was defeated by Germany 1-7 in the semi-final and then failed in the match for third place against the Netherlands 1-3. Germany were defeated at the 2006 World Cup in the semi-final, the Italians in extra time, while Italy even in 1990 at the World Championships on penalties in the semi-finals drew the short straw. The pressure can be curse and blessing at the same time and the motivation is, especially in such tournaments, often a kind of ballast the further the tournament has progressed. A similar fate affects club team situations. As an example, we take the UEFA Champions League/UEFA Cup. Real Madrid (1957) and Inter Milan (1965) won their home games in the final.

For the sake of completeness, we want to take the European Championships into the statistics. So far 15 finals have been played. Only three times the host team has won, namely Spain (1964), Italy (1968) and France (1984). That is only 20% so that the home advantage in a European Championship is even lower than at a World Cup. In particular, the fact that the last European Championship victory of a host was more than 30 years ago, surprised a bit. Even at European Championships, there are a few examples in which the home team under pressure and expectations are broken.

France (1960), Belgium (1972), Yugoslavia (1976), Italy (1980), Germany (1988), Sweden (1992), England (1996) and the Netherlands (2000) each failed in the semi-finals and thus in an immensely important Game. Portugal (2004) and France (2016) were even worse off, each in the final as clear favourites against Greece respectively against Portugal, but came up empty-handed. Portugal failed with 0-1 against the Greeks despite overwhelming superiority, France even failed only in extra time.

Nevertheless, the home advantage at least outside of knockout games is undisputed, even if, according to statistics, the home advantage is declining. In the Bundesliga, the share of home wins in the 80s was still at 55%, now it has slipped a little below the 50% mark. Still, a home win is still the most common event. One explanatory approach is that the power density has become narrower and associated with the more frequent division of points. Conversely, it must also be said very clearly that the proportion of away wins in all European top leagues is never more than 35%, which gives the home team a significant advantage.

This also shows the statistics of the most common results of the Bundesliga in Germany. The most common result by far is the 1-1, followed by the results 2-1, 1-0 and 2-0 three home victories. Tactical and performance-related arguments suggest that the matches are getting tighter and the home advantage seems to be declining over time, but there is still more home than away wins in each league.

Conclusion – What impact does the home advantage have on your team’s performance?

The home advantage exists! However, a home game can generate both pressure and motivation. In KO games such as the European Championship and the World Cup there have conspicuously been many failures of hosts in the semifinals – often when they were in tense situations such as extra-time and penalty shootouts.

A similar fate was suffered by AS Roma in 1984 and Bayern Munich 2012 in the Champions League final, each of which failed on penalties. In league everyday life, however – and thus with a view to the season – the home advantage is of course statistically proven and especially the top teams win a large part of their home games – then remain unbeaten weeks and months in front of their home crowd.

What do these insights mean for betting?

The bookmakers, of course, know about the home advantage and the underlying statistics. However, betting odds are also being moved by the players in the betting market. Since the home advantage is very easy to grasp and therefore widespread, of course, also over-proportionately often bet on home wins.

This means that the market is most likely to overstate home teams in its efficiency, albeit only slightly. The home advantage is an important component that should not be ignored in your own betting analysis. Audience support, a motivational component and other factors make home teams generally better performers. It makes no sense to bet blindly on home teams. But to include it as a variable for your own betting model and thus also to understand market movements. This can be valuable for your own betting results.


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