If every sporting event would be played on neutral venue, both competitors would have equal chances to display their respective qualities and capabilities. But this is not the case, and home court advantage has a massive impact over pretty much every sport out there, from football to basketball or boxing. It’s well known that teams statistically perform better at home, so this article is not here to bring you a bunch of stats to show how Stoke City won more games home than away. Instead, we aim to provide an insight into WHY home court advantage is so important and how teams try to maximize the edge they gain when playing on their home turf.
Just to get things going, let`s take football and the English Premier League and see what the percentages say for the five years between the 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 seasons:
The numbers show pretty clearly that playing at home is an important edge, and this is a valid statement for every league in every sport. Punters put immense emphasys on the venue at which an event is played, and for good reason. But what does home court advantage really mean and why do we rate it so highly?
- The most important thing about home court advantage is the familiarity with the arena, the pitch and the surroundings. Players know every inch of the stadium and this is the main advantage that home court gives you. You can sleep in your own bed, eat your own food and you get a sense of comfort which gives you high confidence and morale. You feel you own the venue and subconsciously you know you have to defend it.
- Teams playing on the road have to travel, sometimes very far and in poor conditions. Jet lag and poor accommodations could also hurt you when playing away from home, while consecutive games on the road will produce a higher than usual level of fatigue.
- Crowd support is a crucial aspect of home games. With the fans behind you, creating a great atmosphere, your motivation rises, while the opponent could be hindered by booing, heckling and other specific fan aggression. Nevertheless, contrary to the popular belief, crowd support IS NOT the main advantage of playing at home. When you`re playing with no fans in the stands, you still have that home court advantage.
- Studies were carried and they have showed that indeed referees tend to give an edge to the home team under the pressure of the fans and the atmosphere in the stands. This applies mostly to inexperienced umpires.
- Some sports have specific rules that provide the home team with the edge. For example, in baseball the hosts will be last in each inning, a major advantage. Ice Hockey also has certain rules that favor the home side.
- Many teams have a big edge when playing at home because of the climate and altitude. Take Bolivia, not the best football nation but a tough test for any team in the world when playing in La Paz at an altitude of over 3.500 meters. Russian teams are also very scary when playing European Giants in late autumn in extreme cold and snow. Africa is another place where you don`t want to be an away team. The examples can go on forever, for a multitude of sports.
- Some competitors have gone to great lengths over the years in order to maximize the impact of home court advantage. Turning the heat up in the visiting locker room, flooding the pitch or providing the opposition with inadequate training conditions are common tactics to get the upper hand on your own arena.
With all these factors to consider, is no wonder that a simple change of venue can do so much in deciding the outcome of a game. It is always a good idea for punters to look for teams that have the most or the least advantages when playing at home in order to gain an edge over the bookies. I wouldn`t be confident betting against Bolivia playing at home, but I would back an experienced team to make use of the quality advantage when playing in certain road games. Home court advantage should be a key factor in every match analysis you make.