Home Advantage and Crowd Size in Soccer: A Worldwide Study

By Goumas, Chris | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Home Advantage and Crowd Size in Soccer: A Worldwide Study


Goumas, Chris, Journal of Sport Behavior


Twenty years ago Courneya and Carron (1992) described home advantage as "the consistent finding that home teams in sport competitions win over 50% of the matches played under a balanced home and away schedule", and since then its existence has been well established in a range of team sports including association football or 'soccer' (Nevill & Holder, 1999; Pollard & Pollard, 2005). Home advantage in soccer occurs worldwide, at almost every level of the game, and at the elite level about 60% of all competition points gained are at home, more than that in most other sports investigated (Pollard & Pollard, 2005).

Four major factors have been identified that may contribute to home advantage in sport: adverse effects of travel, familiarity with local conditions, rules favouring the home team, and crowd support (Courneya & Carron, 1992). In soccer, travel effects and familiarity may play some role in home advantage, rule factors play little or no role, and although home team crowd support appears to play a major role the mechanisms through which it operates are unclear (Pollard, 2008). The focus of the present study is on crowd size and how its contribution to home advantage in soccer may vary worldwide.

Although home advantage has been shown to vary greatly within continents--for example it is much higher in the Balkans than in the rest of Europe, and higher in the Andean nations than in the rest of South America--there appears to be little difference between continents as a whole (Pollard, 2006a). During the period 1998 to 2003 home advantage in domestic soccer leagues--in terms of the percentage of competition points gained by home teams--was 61% in Europe, Africa and Australia, 64% in South America, 62% in North and Central America, and 59% in Asia (Pollard, 2006a).

Several studies have investigated the effect of crowd size on home advantage in European soccer. An analysis of English soccer leagues (Pollard, 2006b) found that home advantage was greater in the top four leagues (about 60%) than in the lower five leagues (about 55%) where average crowd sizes were much lower. However, home advantage varied little between the top four leagues even though their average crowd size ranged from less than 5,000 to over 30,000. A study of Scottish soccer leagues (Nevill, Newell & Gale, 1996) showed a similar pattern of results, with the same level of home advantage (about 60%) observed in each of the top two divisions despite a four-fold difference in average crowd size, and little or no home advantage in the third division which attracted much smaller crowds. In a regression analysis of individual matches in the English Premier League (Boyco, Boyco & Boyco, 2007) home advantage increased significantly by 0.09 goals for every 10,000 person increase in attendance.

Although the abovementioned studies provide evidence that home team crowd support contributes to home advantage in soccer, there is no consensus on what the nature of this association may be. To investigate the role crowd size plays in home advantage this study used match data from international club soccer competitions in four confederations of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA). These tournaments provide a rich source of data for investigating crowd effects on home advantage as crowd sizes range from a few hundred to over 50,000 in each competition, as opposed to domestic leagues where there tends to be much less variation in attendance. The objectives of this study were two-fold: (1) to compare the level of home advantage in soccer competitions in four different continents; and (2) to investigate how home advantage in each of these continents varies according to crowd size.

Method

Data

The data used in this study were all matches from recent seasons (up to 2011) of the major international club soccer leagues in four FIFA confederations representing Europe, Asia (including the Middle East), North America (including Central America and the Caribbean) and South America, and are summarised in Table 1. …

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