In the first series of this article, we established that a new stadium has an impact on a soccer team’s performance. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative, we now analyse in more detail the three key factors that contribute to this impact on how a team performs. Read on to find out more.
One of the central factors of home field advantage is that a group of players perform better in familiar surroundings. These players benefit from a marginal advantage in individual contests and thus, the team as a whole performs better. Of course, when a soccer team moves to a new stadium, it will take players a while to familiarise themselves with new surroundings.
Although they are taken from a small sample size, the observations made within this series of articles are in line with data analysed from the 30+ teams that have moved stadia in English soccer in the last 25 years.
As well as the drastic change in aesthetics and new facilities like changing rooms, teams also have to adjust to a new pitch, a new pre-match routine and depending on location, different travel arrangements. Although a new stadium might provide modern, state-of-the-art facilities, eliminating players’ familiarity with their surroundings might be why the likes of Southampton, Leicester and Arsenal initially struggled after their move.
Soccer teams can decide on the type of playing surface used, with Desso GrassMaster’s part synthetic turf now favoured by most, and they can also alter the size of their pitch. Premier League regulations state a pitch must be between 90-120m in length and 45.5-90m in width.
Arsenal’s change from Highbury (100m x 67m) to the Emirates (105m x 68m) is similar to West Ham’s move from Upton Park (100m x 64m) to the London Stadium (105m x 68m). Similarly, Tottenham’s year at Wembley means that their playing pitch will increase from 100m x 67m to 150m x 69m. In fact, every team analysed in part one of this article have increased the size of their pitch after moving stadia.
A bigger pitch might enable managers to implement a more expansive passing style, but it could take their players a while to get used to and have a negative impact on results in the meantime.
Leicester City fans famously caused a minor earthquake when celebrating a winning goal in the 2015/16 Premier League season. The general assumption is more fans and more noise means better results, but is this really the case?
Numerous studies concerning HFA suggest it isn’t necessarily the fans that increase the performance levels of a team. Instead, they claim it is the aforementioned familiarity and boost in testosterone levels (something that occurs before fans arrive at the stadium) that could relate to a sense of primitive territoriality.
While Spurs have almost tripled their capacity with the use of Wembley stadium for a season, they might have sacrificed the benefits of the atmosphere from White Hart Lane.
More fans and louder levels of noise may not directly impact a team that has recently moved to a new stadium, but they can still contribute to a dip in performance from the away side and match officials – something the home side will ultimately benefit from.
The crowd’s influence on the referee awarding a penalty is crucial in a game of soccer. Since the 1992/93 Premier League season, 1,214 penalties have been awarded to the home team and only 722 to the away team (over 84% of that total have been converted). The question is; is it the number of fans that influence the referee or is it the level of atmosphere they create?
A new stadium can be an incredibly costly expense to a soccer team. While Arsenal absorbed the cost of the Emirates, Manchester City, Swansea and West Ham have benefitted from government-funded projects. Making financial adjustments to cover the £390 million cost of building a new stadium is one major factor that could have affected Arsenal’s performance in recent years, and since Tottenham are also self-funding their stadium, they could have similar difficulties.
Although the naming rights and increased ticket sales can help soften the financial blow of a new stadium, clubs will more often than not have to rein in transfer market spending as a means to balance the books. This could then stifle progression and hinder their ability to compete in the Premier League.
The Gunners have spent £481.05m since 2006, compared to Man City who have spent £1.32bn, Chelsea £909m, Manchester United £885.74m and Liverpool £717.5m.
A comparison of spending in the transfer market between Arsenal and their main rivals since moving to the Emirates highlights one reason why they have been unable to emulate their previous successes. The Gunners have spent £481.05m since 2006, compared to Man City who have spent £1.32bn, Chelsea £909m, Manchester United £885.74m and Liverpool £717.5m. Arsenal also have by far the lowest net total spend with £192.18m.
This may well be why we see teams like Manchester City, Leicester, Swansea and Hull benefit from their new stadia, as they haven’t had to deal with the financial constraints. Conversely, Arsenal and Southampton both suffered a dip in form before beginning to turn things around when they recover financially.
Minimal rent payments on a government funded stadium meant Swansea could continue to progress in the Football League before winning promotion to the Premier League. Leicester City’s takeover in 2010, and the £181.33m spent on players since, has aided their recent success after initially struggling at the King Power Stadium. Additionally, Manchester City’s success has been largely dependent on their takeover and the huge financial investment that came with it.
It is worth noting that Tottenham Hotspur has a notoriously strict transfer policy and if the building of their new stadium were to make budget restraints even tighter, they could lose ground on the other elite teams in the Premier League.
Is a new stadium worth it?
There are numerous factors that can impact on a soccer team’s performance after moving stadia. While familiarity and the atmosphere created by fans can be major contributors to a decline in home field advantage, the financial implications of a move must also be considered. Soccer teams will no doubt be aware of these factors, but they still deem a change of stadia to be worthwhile (otherwise they wouldn't go through with it).
Although they are taken from a small sample size, the observations made within this series of articles are in line with data analysed from the 30+ teams that have moved stadia in English soccer in the last 25 years. It will be interesting to see how Tottenham Hotspur perform at Wembley this season and back at the new White Hart Lane in 18/19.
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