I think we can all agree that the Premier League is better with fans.
Indeed any football match is better with supporters inside the stadium.
However, what about how having no home fans inside stadiums during this virus affected period, how much of a disadvantage has that proved to be for teams / clubs when they play at home?
When plans were being put in place for the Premier League to start playing matches once again in June and July, there was much talk about how this would be unfair, with teams supposedly losing home advantage due to no fans present. Some clubs even campaigned for there to be no relegation in 2019/20 because of losing this home advantage in matches, no surprise that it was clubs in danger of going down who demanded there be no relegation!
So what was the reality?
Well the CIES Football Observatory have analysed the difference in the percentage of home wins before and after the virus pandemic in 63 leagues worldwide.
In each league they compared results over the previous five years (1 January 2015 – 31 March 2020) with games played from 1 April 2020 – 24 August 2020.
At least 40 matches had to have been played in the second time period, Ligue 1 the main league missing as their government forced the French leagues to end early and not all games played out for the 2019/20 season.
Across all of the 63 leagues analysed, the study found that in the previous five year time period, there were 44.3% of matches that ended in home wins.
For the time period from 1 April – 24 August 2020, that figure for home wins across the 63 leagues went down to 42.2%.
So less home wins overall but only down by 2.1%.
Where it gets interesting is when comparing what happened in the various leagues.
Below are the three most negatively leagues affected with less home wins, then the two leagues where the number of home wins actually increased the most. I have then picked out a few notable leagues in between the extremes.
Home advantage before/after the virus pandemic (the percentage difference in number of home wins, then in brackets the percentage of home wins in the previous five years and the most recent period):
Greece -15.1% (47.9% and 32.8%)
Austria -15.0% (45.2% and 30.2%)
Germany -14.1 (45.8% and 31.7%)
Spain -6.1% (47.0% and 40.9%)
England (Championship) -5.2% (43.3% and 38.1%)
Italy +0.1% (44.3% and 44.4%)
England (Premier League) +0.8% (45.9% and 46.7%)
Turkey +6.8% (44.9% and 51.7%)
Switzerland +8.5% (42.3% and 50.8%)
So these stats suggest that the absence of fans in stadiums, most badly affected home teams in Greece, Austria and Germany.
Whilst the absence of fans most helping home clubs in Switzerland and Turkey.
As for the Premier League, there were actually 0.8% MORE home wins without fans, though the Championship did see a 5.2% drop.
So quite remarkably, the stats suggest that there was no negative impact on Premier League clubs playing at home with no fans present and indeed a small extra advantage due to it.
The truth though appears to be, taking it across all the leagues with a far higher number of matches as a sample, that there are indeed inbuilt advantages when playing at home BUT that the presence of fans isn’t necessarily one of them…