Is home advantage on the decline?

Is home advantage on the decline?

The idea of playing games both home and away is one of the great intricacies of team sport. Hardly exclusive to football, home advantage and the supposed benefits it brings is one of the most talked about aspects of any sporting encounter. It is generally accepted that home games are easier, with sides enjoying majority support on the terraces as well as an important sense of familiarity in their surroundings.

This is a fair assumption, and one that statistics would comprehensively support. But even so, is this advantage on the decline?

The suggestion isn’t that home advantage is a fantasy, more so that it has become gradually of less importance. The table below shows the various win percentages for both home and away sides in the Premier League, with away sides losing less and less year on year between 2009 and 2013. Despite a rise in this figure for the 2013/14 season, we still saw away sides pick up more wins on the road, which would further support the notion that playing at home has become of lesser importance.

Season Games Home Win (%) Away Win (%) Draw (%) Home GPG Away GPG
2013/2014 380 47 32 21 1.57 1.19
2012/2013 380 44 28 28 1.56 1.24
2011/2012 380 45 31 24 1.59 1.22
2010/2011 380 47 24 29 1.62 1.17
2009/2010 380 51 24 25 1.70 1.07

So why has there been a decline?

One of the key components of home advantage is the support generated by ones own fans, the famous ‘twelfth man’ with their ability to inspire and encourage in equal measure. But in the modern era it is hard to contest that this hasn’t been on the slide; away fans consistently out-sing home supporters and the vitriol aimed at rival players is now instead aimed at ones own.

It was AVB who infamously complained about the toxic atmosphere that so often greeted his players at White Hart Lane, these were his views after a win against Hull back in 2013:

“Away from home their support has been amazing; we play with no fear and we need that atmosphere at White Hart Lane.”

“We didn’t have the support we should have done. There was much anxiety from the stands, the players had to do it alone.”

“We spoke about it at half-time. I told the players that we would have to do it on our own. They had to dig deep and look for the strength within themselves. They also believed that it’s not easy to play in this stadium when the atmosphere is like this.”

This isn’t for one moment a scathing attack on Spurs fans, more so an example of the growing sense of unease that home fans create for their respective sides. On the road there is a lessening of the restrictive pressures, along with the unerring support of fans whose backing remains largely unconditional.

What we have also seen in the Premier League is the collapse of the traditional footballing fortresses. The likes of Anfield and Old Trafford no longer pose the same threat to travelling sides as they perhaps did in the eras of Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez. This isn’t to say that either side wouldn’t be favoured on their own patch, more so that both grounds provide opportunities for away sides that perhaps weren’t there in years gone by.

There will always be exceptions to the trend; you only have to look at QPR’s inability to gain a single point on the road to date this season, but what does seem to be evident though is a general erosion in the core foundations of home advantage. Teams no longer see travelling as synonymous with defeat, and this can only help make our league increasingly competitive going forward.

An anomaly or a trend; is home advantage on the wane?