Losing the home field advantage when playing behind closed doors during COVID-19: Change or chance?

Yannick Hill*, Nico W. Van Yperen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Due to restrictions against the COVID-19 pandemic, spectators were not allowed to attend soccer matches at the end of the 2019/2020 season. Previous studies suggest that the absence of a home crowd changes the home field advantage in terms of match outcomes, offensive performance, and referee decisions. However, because of the small sample sizes, these changes may be random rather than meaningful. To test this, we created 1,000,000 randomized samples from the previous four seasons with the exact same number of matches played behind closed doors in Europe’s four most elite soccer leagues at the end of the 2019/2020 season. We found that across countries (Germany, Spain, Italy, and England), performance indices and referee decisions (except red cards) indeed changed to the detriment of the home team beyond the level of chance. However, this overall pattern could be ascribed to specific countries. Most importantly, the proportion of points won by the home teams declined significantly only in Germany, which was accompanied by a meaningful increase in (1) the proportion of goals scored by the away teams, and (2) the proportion of yellow cards given to the home teams. We conclude that the home field advantage may indeed be lost when spectators are absent. However, in future studies, more detailed behavioral analyses are needed to determine the robustness and the behavioral determinants of this phenomenon across leagues and countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number658452
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15-Apr-2021

Cite this