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On the Home Field with Twelve Men?

Study of TU Dortmund Shows: In Soccer the Home Advantage has been Becoming Less Important Over the Last Years

At this European championship, Austria and Switzerland regard themselves as having the upper hand. Due to the vehement support of the ”twelfth man on the field” – the home fans – the alpine kickers hope for the crucial kick for their game.

And because of the short travelling distance the German team could also profit from the home advantage. But this can only be an advantage when it really exists. Eva Heinrichs, a future diploma statistician at Technische Universität Dortmund, has scientifically examined the “myth home advantage” in her final paper.

After analysing all games of the premier and second German national league as well as the Spanish, Italian and English premier leagues since 1963, she is certain that: a certain home advantage is in fact existing but compared to the 70ties and 80ties it is getting smaller and smaller.

In the premier league season 87/88 an average of 55.8 percent of all games was won by the home team, it went down to 47.8 percent afterwards. During the season 06/07 it even sank to 43.8 percent. That means that less than half of the games are still won on the home field – barely a trace of home advantage. In this respect the premier and the second league show the same tendencies: the turnaround emerged at the end of the 80ties and the beginning of the 90ties. Until then the home advantage had been existing and strong, but its importance has been significantly dropping since then.

But what are the reasons for the decline of the home advantage? Supported by her two tutors, Prof. Dr. Roland Fried and Prof. Dr. Joachim Kunert, Eva Heinrichs found several factors for the reduction of the chances of the home team. On the one hand the number of goals during a game sank. In the early days of the national league an average of 3.5 goals were made in one game. But in the last years this number dropped to less than 3. At the same time the number of home goals went down, whereas the number of away goals nearly remained the same. The results reflect this findings: less home victories but more away victories and ties. For the Dortmund statistician this is proof for the fact that the increasing performance concentration in professional soccer diministes the home advantage.

Eva Heinrichs also checked her findings on the European level and examined 45,996 games of the Spanish, Italian and English leagues based on the same statistic method (19,056 England, 14,580 Spain, 12,360 Italy). And here it also shows that the home advantage is continuously getting smaller. The numbers of away victories, away goals and ties increase and the number of home victories and home goals drops. The Italian league is the only exception. Here the number of home victories has nearly remained the same over the years and the other indices for a home advantage do not always correspond to the other leagues. But statistician Eva Heinrichs has an explanation: in the 70ties and 80ties Italian was famous for its defensive soccer. The absolute numbers and the relation of away and home victories or away and home goals show that the Italian soccer has just adapt to the “European level”. Thus, it can also be applied to Italy: the immense home advantage is a myth – but for a long time!

However, for one phenomenon with regard to home advantage, Eva Heinrichs couldn’t find an explanation. With statistic methods she was able to clearly detect a level shifting in nearly all time series – the statistician calls it structural interruption. And in all leagues this turnaround occurred at the end of the 80ties and the beginning of the 90ties. Therefore, something must have happened in European soccer at that time. Something that influenced the home advantage in a negative (or positive with regard to the away team) way. But although the statistician discussed this phenomenon in many forums, even the internet community was not able to give a conclusive explanation.

Ole Luennemann | alfa
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