While reading Andrew McNair's excellent piece on British football stadiums I couldn't help but geek out a little.
If you have read a few of my articles here at BleacherReport.com, you'll know I'm a sports geek of the highest order. So when Andrew started mentioning specific venues as providing enhanced home-field advantage, my first thought was "I should measure this."
The question in my mind (and this may differ from the focus of Andrew's article) is which venues provide their team the biggest boost, as opposed to those most likely to see a victory by the respective home team. This distinction may be a bit complicated to tease out because it can be hard to separate the home team from the home venue.
Is it tough to win at Old Trafford because it is Old Trafford, or because that's where Manchester United plays?
So how to do it? Well fixtures like the EPL, which follows the home-away double round robin format, offer a clear and easy method of sorting it all out (at least for games within the league). Simply put, it hinges on calculating how much better a team does at home than on the road.
Over the course of a season, the average disadvantage of the road games will equal the average home-field advantage for the league. So, by removing the the 'away-disadvantage', we can isolate the advantage gained on the home pitch. (If you would like an explanation of the detailed math, you may email me.)
Using data from 2000/2001 through 2006/2007 (sorry, full seasons only), I determined the average home-field advantage for each team that played in the EPL in at least four of the seasons covered. The results are given below and the values are given in goals per game. Average home-field advantage for the EPL over the period was 0.4 goals per game.
My first instinct with a table like this is to look at the top and bottom rows to see if they check out. Unfortunately, both jump out for discussion.
First, how could Elland Road be that bad? Surely the numbers presented aren't in agreement with its reputation as a tough venue. Perhaps Leeds draws enough of its own fans on the road to effectively cancel the home-field advantage of other teams. That would skew downward the measure of their home-field advantage.
Even though these are my numbers, I'm not convinced that Leeds would do just as well to play its home games in an empty stadium (which is what the calculated home-field advantage suggests.)
Secondly, Portsmouth's value is very high. Looking at their performance this year the term 'regression to the mean' comes to mind. When I recalculate this at the end of the current season, the advantage measured should be more reasonable.
But aside from the two outliers, the table seems pretty fair.
Now, for some honorable mentions going to teams that (while not making the cut of four seasons at the premier level) show very good home-field advantage.
Norwich, Sheffield United, and Wolves all had advantages of 0.9 or better. Bradford and Crystal Palace were also strong.
On the other end of the spectrum, dishonorable mentions go to Sunderland, Coventry Wigan, and Leicester (with Sunderland ranking worst). These were the only four teams aside from Leeds to show a negative home-field advantage.
And to answer an earlier question of mine: It appears that it's tough to win at Old Trafford because that's where Manchester United plays.
Mark Myers is the founder and primary developer at ChanceBot.com, a sports simulation and analysis website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org