It is widely accepted that sporting teams perform better at home than if they were away or at a neutral ground. This is evident by looking at every football league season since 1888, whereby home teams have scored more goals than away teams over the course of the season.
While stats suggest every team performs better at home than on their travels, it’s impossible to create a universal home-field advantage handicap. This is due to soccer teams being fundamentally unbalanced, with some earning bigger home-field advantages than others. (Here's an in-depth analysis on How influential HFA is in the Premier League)
Bettors must also have to take into account what data they feel is relevant. For example should Arsenal’s pre-2005 form be considered, even if it is at another stadium? What about Chelsea and Manchester City, who’s Home Field Advantage has increased significantly after their purchases by rich owners?
How to calculate Home Field Advantage in soccer
To calculate the Home Field Advantage, take the number of goals scored at home per season (HF) and minus the number of goals conceded at home (HA). Then divide by the number of home games played in a season (19):
HFA = (HF – HA) / 19
Using Home Field Advantage with Asian Handicaps
This information has particular significance for Asian Handicap betting. If a team has a home handicap less than their Home Field Advantage, it might make a sensible bet – although this is just one of a number of factors to consider in a balanced betting strategy.
Influences on Home Field Advantage
The influence on Home Field Advantage by home crowds is something, which needs to be looked at. Anfield is renowned for creating a volatile atmosphere for visiting teams, but could this have a negative effect on the home team if they underperform?
Prior to the 2013/14 season Liverpool majorly underperformed for a club of their size finishing 7th, 6th, 8thand 7th. Despite the poor league form The Reds had a better HFA than Tottenham in all but one season despite finishing below them in the league. Does this suggest that Liverpool’s home performances are affected by Home Field Advantage more so than others?
Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium for the 2006 season, but failed to utilise their Home Field Advantage.
Before the move, the Gunners came to prominence in 1997/98, picking up five Premier League trophies before the end of the 2005 season. During this period, their average Home Field Advantage was 1.51.
Since moving to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal have won one FA Cup, while their average Home Field Advantage has dropped to 1.23.
The affect of moving stadium is amplified if you examine the pre- and post- move seasons. Between the two years, Arsenal’s Home Field Advantage dropped by 0.42.
However, by looking at Arsenal’s last six seasons their Home Field Advantage has been gradually increasing, which suggests they now feel at “home” at the Emirates stadium.
This implies that when moving from a “home” ground that a team is accustomed to, performances suffer as everyone adjusts to their new surroundings.
Style of soccer
How important is the style of soccer a team adopts? For instance, Liverpool’s HFA increased from 0.89 in 2012/13 to 1.84 in 2013/14 – despite having the same manager and a relatively similar squad.
The main difference however, is that manager Brendan Rodgers adopted a more attacking philosophy, which in turn created more goalscoring opportunities, resulting in almost a goal per game increase in HFA.
There are many preconceptions on what influences HFA in soccer – crowd size, travel and weather are a few which have been proposed over the years.
Moskowitz and Wertheim who wrote Scorecasting compiled data to test a variety of these popular theories. What they found was that the most prominent influence was the referee. They found that home teams received small preferential treatment from the referee.
The authors make it clear that the bias is not done consciously, but rather being humans, the referees absorb the raw emotion of a home crowd, and sometimes make a decision subconsciously in favour of the close-by raucous crowd.
In addition Harvard Research Assistant Ryan Boyko researched further proof for the influences on Home Field Advantage.
Boyko studied 5,000 Premier League games from 1992 to 2006 to discern any officiating bias for home teams.
His conclusion was that for every 10,000 home team fans, home team advantage increased by 0.1 goals.
His study also showed that home teams are more likely to receive penalties, particularly from inexperienced referees. Therefore building referee profiles is also important when predicting a match’s outcome.