The beauty of the home is the safe, warm feeling that being within its friendly confines brings to those who live there. There’s no better sensation than cozying up on the green, green grass of home and enjoying warm food ordered using the Swiggy referral code.
The fans are slowly coming back to sporting venues. In some U.S. states, teams are again playing to 100 percent capacity again. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March of 2019, first it took away sports completely. As the games began to be played again, they did so in empty stadiums, while governments sought to prevent sports venues from becoming the site of super spreader events.
In doing so, the evidence suggests that one of the oldest caveats in sports was eliminated from the mix when it comes to determining the outcomes of events. At online betting sites such as mytopsportsbooks.com, one of the key elements that is weighed when handicapping a game is the home-field advantage.
Did COVID-19 put an end to the home-field advantage? As the fans return to witness the action, is it coming back into play? Let’s take a look at that and see what shakes out.
In the old days of sports, being the home team was indeed a mighty advantage. Old-time stadiums were unique in their construction and created a distinct edge for the team that played there. For instance, from 1950-69, the home team won 14 of 20 NFL Championship games. That’s a 70 percent win rate.
Travel was a weary pursuit in that era. Most of it was done by bus or train. Teams often arrived in the city where they’d be playing on the day of the game.
Today, stadiums are cookie cutters. Each ballpark, football field or arena looks an awful lot like every other one. Visiting teams are afforded similar creature comforts to the home team. Teams travel by private plane or charter. They are no longer at the whim of the commercial airline schedules. Visiting teams arrive in the away city at least the night prior to the game, stay in a five-star resort and are well rested, ready and prepared to go on game day.
A number of alterations were made to the way the games were played in order to best combat the dangers of the spread of COVID-19. Besides the elimination of spectators, schedules were altered. The NHL and NBA shortened their schedules and opted following a format similar to baseball, with teams playing multiple successive games against each other in the same city.
In the case of MLB and NHL, the leagues reduced their schedules so that only intra-divisional games were contested. This greatly reduced the impact that travel made upon the visiting clubs, further diminishing the advantage generally afforded the home team.
Data analyst John Bica conducted a study for https://towardsdatascience.com/ in which he studied English Premier Soccer League matches from 2019-21 to see if the removal of fans from the terraces at English soccer pitches also eliminated the home edge generally enjoyed by these clubs.
His research displayed that the home side won significantly more matches than the visiting club with fans in attendance. However, when playing in empty stadiums, it was the visiting clubs that posted significantly more victories than the home side.
As well, the home team attempted far fewer shots on goal in empty stadiums than when the seats are packed with supporters. Another interesting stat displayed saw the visiting team assessed significantly fewer fouls and yellow cards than during matches packed with boisterous home spectators. This data suggested that referees felt far less pressure to make borderline calls without the presence of a surly home crowd.
A similar swing was evident in the NFL. From 2002-19, home teams won 57 percent of regular season games. During the 2020 season, playing mostly in empty stadiums, home teams won 127 games. Meanwhile, the visiting teams won 128 games. That works out to a 49.8 percent win rate for the home clubs.
Will that change in 2021, with fans returning to pack NFL stadiums? Will it become home sweet home again like the Dramacool took over theaters? It will certainly be interesting to watch it all unfold.
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