Home Ground Advantage or Home Fan Advantage?

Today the writers behind HPN pushed this yarn out on ABC: Is it the crowds or grounds that give home teams an edge?

It looks at the factors behind Home Ground Advantage and whether they seem to be slipping under pandemic conditions. HPN highly recommends you check it out.

As HPN promised earlier this year, we will be going deeper than our ABC pieces here at times, a sort of behind the scenes bonus content for the dedicated.

The literature

Quite a bit has been written about HGA over the decades, and HPN alluded to some of the studies in the ABC piece above (have you read it yet? Go do it).

The first cab off the ranks has to be the work done by Matt Cowgill – aka The Arc. Matt provided a chapter called Home and Away in Footballistics (still available now) which dug into the factors involved, and wrote this corker on the subject back in 2016. Matt’s stuff covers a lot of the AFL context. Thanks Matt!

As with most AFL related stats subjects, Tony Corke has also written on it, among others (h/t to the AFL Lab who summed a bunch up) and there are other analyses that tend to broadly agree with each other about the scale of the advantage in the AFL and the circumstances where it exists.

More broadly, there have been a range of studies and articles into the phenomenon.

This article, called Home Advantage and Sports Performance: Evidence, Causes and Psychological Implications provides a very good summary of a bunch of other studies.

This image, adapted from a study undertaken by Balmer, Nevill and Williams, provides a good summary of the underlying factors behind HGA. In short, the more intrusive the role of an umpire or judge, the bigger the HGA is.

There have also been some great pieces on Home Ground Advantage and the relationship to particular countries, competitions, sports and derbies. Research into HGA found at shared grounds in Brazil and Italy in soccer was interesting to read, and is available on ResearchGate.

Because we are called Hurling People Now, here’s a hurling related study that provided a lot of the background knowledge.

The Conversation have published two very good overviews into HGA that were leaned on. This one, looks predominantly at HGA and American sport, and touches on research by Michael Lopez and in Scorecasting. Additionally, this one provided a lot of the background into the European soccer aspects.

The HPN gut feel summary

After reading all of this material, and conducting our own research, it feels as though HGA is harder to precisely break down than ever across all sports. However, in competitions like AFL and the NRL, with relatively standard facilities, moderate officiating involvement, large crowds and decent sized travel loads (that are spaced out), it could possibly look like:

  • 90% fan noise and interference.
  • 10% other (psychological, territoriality, travel, conditions, etc).

This is just an educated guess, and is far from firm. Facility advantage (ground size) is unlikely to play a major role considering the clustered, “roaming 100 metre box” style of modern play, but the research is far from in on that aspect. Even in the case of Geelong, popularly assumed to have a large advantage due to their funny shaped ground, the evidence of this is a bit sketchy, factoring in the one-sided crowds and who they have historically played there. Anecdotally and statistically, the Cats also play similarly at Kardinia as they do elsewhere which suggests no special adaptations are made.

Kardinia Park is 13 metres narrower than Docklands and is wonky shaped

A story about the Raiders

Each week so far in 2020, the writers of HPN have tried to sneak a story or reference to the Canberra Raiders into their submitted pieces (last week’s story on NRL rule changes had a “six again” thing cut).

This week, HPN tried:

Performing at home can conversely also be a weight on players and staff.

Take the Canberra Raiders for example. Eight years ago the Green Machine decided to make every game a travel experience by staying in a hotel on the edge of the city. After coach David Furner made the call, the Raiders turned around their season, started winning at home and even made finals. With the side consigned to flying to Sydney to host games in 2020, perhaps this experience will serve them well.

Raiders reference count: 0 from 2 attempts (0% strike rate).

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