Soccer Home Field Advantage

Home advantage is a well-known phenomenon in sports, and soccer is no exception. In fact, compared with other sports, home advantage has been observed to be significantly greater in soccer.

Numerous studies have investigated the impact of game location on team performance and in this article, we'll explore the various aspects of home advantage in soccer, including its magnitude, causes, and potential implications for players and coaches.

Is Home Field Advantage in Soccer Real?

Studies have shown that the magnitude of home advantage in soccer varies depending on a variety of factors, including the level of competition, the quality of the teams involved, and the game location. For instance, one study by Nevill & Holder (1999) examined data from over 40,493 soccer matches and found that home teams won 68.3% of their games.

Other studies have looked at the home advantage win percentages in the top leagues in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, which have ranged from 56.1% to 59.7%. Overall, the magnitude of home advantage in soccer is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that continues to be the subject of research and analysis in the sports science community.

Home Advantage in Soccer Compared to Other Sports

A study by Nevill & Holder (1999) has compared the magnitude of home advantage across some of the major sports and concluded that soccer has one of the greatest home win percentages.

Table 1: The combined home winning percentages for the major team sports.
SportHome Win %
Ice hockey61.2
American football57.3

Causes of Home Advantage in Soccer

The causes of home advantage in soccer are complex and multifaceted. Some researchers have suggested that home advantage is due to factors such as crowd support, familiarity with the playing surface, and travel fatigue. Others have suggested that psychological factors, such as increased motivation and confidence, may also play a role.

Crowd Support

Home fans can provide a supportive and motivating atmosphere for the home team. A number of studies provide strong evidence that home advantage increases with crowd size. However, it is important to note that the impact of the crowd can vary depending on cultural and regional factors. For example, in some countries, the behavior of the crowd may be more hostile or violent, which could have a negative impact on the home team. Additionally, some teams may be more accustomed to playing in front of large crowds and therefore less affected by their presence.

Nevill, Alan & Newell, Sue & Gale, Sally. (1996) examined the results from English and Scottish soccer leagues and determined that the extent of home advantage varies across leagues and seems to be related to crowd size. The data shows that smaller crowd sizes in the lower English leagues and the three Scottish leagues led to less home advantage.

Meanwhile, the importance of the decisions made by the referee, such as sending a player off and awarding a penalty, favored the home team. When the home crowd size is relatively large, home advantage is more evident. However, there is no clear explanation of why this association exists.

Table 2: Frequency of home wins and mean attendance by the English and Scottish leagues/divisions for the 1992-93 season.
League/TierHome Win %Average Attendance
English Premier6421720
English First6510191
English Second646512
English Third603214
English Forth551174
Scottish Premier599542
Scottish First582302
Scottish Second51523

Removing the crowd

Due to COVID-19, there was a unique opportunity to study the effects of removing the crowd completely.

A study by Hill Y, Van Yperen NW (2021) compared samples from the previous four seasons in Germany, Spain, England, and Italy, with an equal number of matches played under COVID-19 restrictions at the end of the 2019/2020 season. They concluded that the absence of a home crowd changes the home-field advantage in terms of match outcomes, offensive performance, and referee decisions. They found that performance indices and referee decisions (except red cards) indeed changed to the detriment of the home team beyond the level of chance.

In Germany, the home-field advantage disappeared completely. Despite changes to the referee decisions, the match outcomes only changed in Germany, suggesting that referee bias is not the only explanation for the home-field advantage. In the absence of a home crowd, coaches may have lower expectations to win, set less challenging goals, and decide on less offensive and courageous playing tactics, which can also affect the home-field advantage

Crowd noise affecting referees

A study by Nevill, Alan & Balmer, Nigel & Williams, Andrew. (2002) examined whether the decisions made by qualified football referees could be influenced by the noise of a crowd and whether more experienced referees would be more balanced in their decisions. The study hypothesized that crowd noise would result in greater leniency towards the home team and greater severity towards the away team.

The study found that the presence or absence of crowd noise had a significant impact on the decisions made by the referees, with the noise group being more lenient towards the home team. Interestingly, the dominant effect of crowd noise was to reduce the number of fouls awarded against the home team rather than increase the number of fouls against the away team.

Refereeing experience had a significant effect on the number of fouls awarded by the referees against the home players, with an increase in fouls awarded up to a peak at approximately 16 years of experience, after which a decline was observed. The study concluded that, with evidence of conflicting opinions amongst qualified referees, some of the referees must be making mistakes on a regular basis, and more concerning is the significant imbalance in decisions observed with crowd noise.


Home teams may be more familiar with the playing surface and the surrounding environment, which can provide a competitive advantage. A study by Clarke SR, Norman JM (1995) looked at teams that once played their games on an artificial surface to determine if it had any effect on their home advantage.

Queens Park Rangers (1981-88), Luton (1985-90), Oldham (1986-91), and Preston (1986-91) all played their home games on artificial fields. The study calculated that the 22 seasons played on an artificial pitch had an average home advantage value of 0.889, compared with 0.519 for the other 898 seasons. This was a significant difference and suggests that familiarity with the playing surface can provide a competitive advantage.

Additionally, the slight drop in home advantage that has been observed when a team moves to a new stadium (Loughead, Carron, Bray, & Kim, 2003) also suggests that familiarity with the home venue is a factor in home advantage.

Studies looking into other sports have made conclusions about home-field familiarity that may also be valid for soccer. These include factors such as the alignment of the pitch with regard to the prevailing wind and sun, and the visual cues players would acquire from knowledge of their own stadium.

Travel Fatigue

Away teams may experience fatigue and jet lag due to travel, which can negatively impact their performance. A study by Pollard, Richard, C. D. Silva, and N. C. Medeiros (2008) concluded that home advantage in Brazil was, on average, 65%, which is higher than the major leagues in Europe. Unlike Europe, this advantage hasn't decreased in the last 15 years. Brazil has several unique characteristics that might contribute to this higher home advantage. One possible factor is its larger size, which could cause more difficulties for the away team when traveling.

When the teams were ranked by their adjusted home advantage, it became clear that Paysandu had a much bigger home advantage than any other team. This was confirmed by statistical analysis. Paysandu's home advantage was 75%, which is 10 percentage points higher than the average. One reason for this could be that Belém, where Paysandu is based, is the furthest location from any other team in Brazil - over 1000km away from its nearest neighbor. However, the study cautioned that differences in climatic conditions might also be playing a confounding role.

This finding is also supported by a study by Clarke S, Norman JM (1995) which looked at teams in England in the 1980s. The study found that out of 94 teams, the team with the greatest home advantage, Plymouth Argyle, was also one of the remotest.

Finally, the decline in home advantage seen in England over the last 10 years (Table 3) could be explained by the fact that travel has become easier and more comfortable during this period.

Referee bias

Multiple studies have investigated how referees may influence home advantage in soccer. The research suggests that referees may subconsciously favor home teams, resulting in a higher number of decisions in favor of the home team.

Overall, the data suggests that referees may have a subconscious bias towards home teams, which could result in a higher number of decisions in favor of the home team. This bias may be due to a variety of factors, such as the influence of the home crowd or the desire to avoid criticism from home fans. It is important for referees to be aware of these biases and strive to make fair and unbiased decisions on the pitch.

A study by Boyko et al. (2007) aimed to investigate whether referee bias affects home advantage in English Premier League (EPL) football matches. The study analyzed EPL match data from 1994 to 2006, including penalty kicks and red card dismissals. The data was analyzed using statistical regression models to determine the effects of various factors on home advantage.

Game StatisticConsistency of home advantage
Home TeamAway Team
Goals scored1.5121.1
Cautions Received1.1711.621
Penalties converted0.1020.058
  • Home Team
  • Away Team
Graph 1: Consistency of home advantage over time for several metrics of EPL games.

Study Findings:

  • Referee bias exists in EPL matches: The study found that individual referees have significantly different levels of home advantage, indicating that referee bias exists in EPL matches.
  • Referees contribute to home advantage: The study found that referees are responsible for at least some of the observed home advantage in EPL football. This suggests that referee psychology affects the amount of home advantage.
  • Referee bias affects penalty kicks: The study found that home teams are more likely to be awarded penalty kicks than away teams, and this bias is significantly influenced by the referee.
  • Referee bias affects red card dismissals: The study found that home teams are less likely to receive red card dismissals than away teams, and this bias is significantly influenced by the referee.
  • Other factors also affect home advantage: The study found that other factors, such as crowd size and season, also have significant effects on home advantage.

Match Scheduling

Scheduling can have a significant impact on the performance of soccer players in a competitive environment. This study by Krumer, Alex & Lechner, Michael. (2016) focused on the German soccer Bundesliga and found that home teams perform significantly worse in midweek matches compared to weekend matches. The home advantage disappears completely in midweek games, which can be considered an unfair advantage for teams with fewer home games during midweek.

The results of this study are in line with the biological literature on the relationship between testosterone, the importance of the event, performance, and territoriality. Midweek matches may be perceived by home team players as less important, leading to decreased motivation and disappearing home advantage. This day-of-the-week effect on performance has also been found in other settings, such as the financial markets, where there is a negative mean return of financial assets on Mondays and a positive return on Fridays.

Game outcomes
Weekend games Midweek games
Points- Home team 1.61.38
Points- Away team 1.141.45
Goals- Home team1.561.55
Goals- Away team1.231.38
  • Weekend games
  • Midweek games
Graph 2: Soccer game statistics for home and away teams playing on weekends vs weekdays.

Level of Competition

One of the key factors that influence the magnitude of home advantage is the level of competition. A study by Pollard, Richard & Pollard, Gregory. (2005) looked at home advantage in the top 9 tiers of English soccer, and noticed that home advantage seemed to be more prevalent in the higher divisions.

Table 3: Home advantage and average attendance at 9 levels of competition in England for six seasons, 1996 – 2002.
LeagueLevelHome Advantage %Average attendance
Premier League160.7%31009
Division 1261.2%14160
Division 2360.3%6649
Division 3461.9%3757
Ryman Premier656.7%487
Ryman Division 1754.1%247
Ryman Division 2855.3%129
Ryman Division 3955.1%89

Dilution of Home Advantage Over Time

A study by Pollard, Richard & Pollard, Gregory. (2005) looked at how home advantage has changed over time and noticed that home advantage was at its greatest in the 19th century and has since decreased and is currently as low as it has ever been.

Time PeriodHome Advantage Percentage
1900-1915 65.8
Graph 3: Home advantage in the First Division (Premiership from 1992) in England, 1888-2002.

Home Advantage Variations Between Countries

A study by Pollard, Richard & Ruano, Miguel. (2014) found that home advantage varied considerably between countries, with some countries having much higher home advantage than others.

The study also explored possible explanations for home advantage. The researchers used multiple regression analysis to identify the factors that contributed to home advantage, including distance, altitude, climatic conditions, competitive balance, civil unrest, perception of corruption, FIFA ranking, and local derbies. The regression model accounted for 43% of the variation in home advantage between countries, but it did not fully explain the very high figures in some countries, such as Nigeria, which had an extraordinarily high home advantage value of 86.82%.

Table 5: Variations in home advantage between countries.
CountryHome Advantage %
Algeria 72.05
Bolivia 71.84
Ghana 71.61
U.S.A. 63.16
Italy 62.25
England 61.12
France 61.08
Germany 58.35

The study suggested that other factors, such as ethnic fractionalization and corruption, may contribute to home advantage. For example, Nigeria has three main ethnic groups that are grouped in specific regions of the country. Most football teams and their supporters identify with one of these groups, which could create a strong sense of territoriality and contribute to home advantage. Additionally, corruption in the Nigerian league, including match-fixing, bribery, and hooliganism, may also contribute to home advantage.

Overall, the study provides a comprehensive analysis of home advantage in football matches across different countries and continents and identifies several factors that contribute to home advantage. However, it also highlights the complexity of the phenomenon and the need for further research to fully understand the factors that contribute to home advantage.

Home Advantage in Women's Soccer

Pollard, Richard & Ruano, Miguel. (2014) have shown that the degree of home advantage in women's soccer may be different from men's soccer.

According to data collected by a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, the home advantage in women's soccer is less pronounced compared to men's soccer. The study analyzed the results of over 10,000 matches across 25 seasons in various professional soccer leagues and found that the home team won 47.5% of matches in women's soccer compared to 55.6% in men's soccer.

One possible explanation for this difference is that women's soccer is still a developing sport compared to men's soccer, and the infrastructure and resources available to women's teams are not yet at the same level. This could result in women's teams having less support from their home fans and fewer resources to make their home stadiums feel like an advantage.

Another possible explanation for the smaller home advantage in women's soccer compared to men's soccer is that women may perceive their home venue more as a public place and less as a home territory to be protected. This perception may lead to a reduced sense of ownership and emotional attachment to the stadium, which could translate into a weaker home advantage.

The study suggests that this perception may be related to gendered socialization processes, in which women are socialized to see themselves as more communal and less territorial than men. In addition, the study notes that women's sports have historically received less attention and investment than men's sports, which may contribute to a sense that women's soccer stadiums are more public spaces than private ones.

The study also acknowledges that other factors may be at play, such as differences in team performance, fan support, and referee bias. However, the finding that the home advantage is smaller in women's soccer than in men's soccer raises interesting questions about the role of gender and socialization in shaping athletes' perceptions of their home venue and their performance on the field.

Implications for Players and Coaches

Understanding the impact of home advantage in soccer can have important implications for players and coaches. Coaches may use strategies in order to minimize the impact of home advantage.

  • Defensive Style: Playing a more defensive style of soccer can help minimize the impact of home advantage by limiting the number of scoring opportunities for the home team. Although, some will argue that it is important to avoid defensive play as it gives the home team the territorial and psychological initiative.
  • Strategic Substitutions: Making substitutions at strategic times, such as when the home team is beginning to build momentum, can help disrupt the flow of the game and minimize the impact of home advantage.
  • Mental Toughness: Developing mental toughness and resilience can help players perform at their best regardless of the game location. Players should be trained to focus on the game and not be distracted by the home crowd.
  • Referee Bias: Coaches should also avoid antagonizing the referee as they can be influenced by the home crowd.


Home advantage is a well-established phenomenon in soccer, and numerous studies have investigated its impact on team performance. While the magnitude of home advantage can vary depending on a variety of factors, the evidence suggests that home teams do indeed have an advantage over away teams. The causes of home advantage are complex and multifaceted and may include factors such as crowd support, familiarity, travel fatigue, and psychological factors such as motivation and confidence. Understanding the impact of home advantage in soccer can have important implications for players and coaches, and developing strategies to minimize its impact can help level the playing field and improve performance.


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