Has Premier League 'home advantage' gone since fans left?

Premier League matches since June have been played without fans due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we looked at how that is impacting results.

Has Premier League 'home advantage' gone since fans left?

It's seven months since fans were allowed to attend a Premier League match. While reduced numbers of supporters have started to return to stadiums in some countries, such as Germany and France, the Premier League remains behind closed doors.

No fans, no advantage?

Initially it looked as though English top-flight clubs would be able to welcome fans back with reduced capacities in October, but with coronavirus infections on the rise again in England, those plans were put on the back-burner as the British government tightened restrictions again.

A petition – which has since been backed by the EFL, Manchester United, Brighton Hove Albion and Sheffield United, among others – hopes to encourage the government to reconsider their previous judgement in an attempt to ease the financial worries of smaller clubs.

Just because fans have been stuck to their armchairs at home rather than in the stadiums doesn't mean talking points have disappeared, however, and a common conclusion many have come to since the Premier League returned behind closed doors in June is that home advantage has diminished.

With that in mind, we investigated using Opta data…

Home wins at a similar level

First of all, for this investigation we have crunched the numbers for all Premier League results up to June 2020 and compared them with all results since June, when England's elite division resumed.

With that in mind, we are of course looking at two hugely different numbers – there have been 130 matches since the start of June 2020, while there were 10,794 before then.

The results show that, on average, there has been a decrease in home wins since June, but, somewhat surprisingly, it's not a big drop-off.

In fact, it only decreased from 46.2 per cent to 45.4 per cent. So, while we are seeing fewer home wins on average, the difference is small.

Away wins increase by a third

The biggest change, however, is with regards to away wins, where we are seeing a significant increase.

Matches with fans in attendance have an average of 27.6 per cent of away wins, but without spectators that goes to 36.9 per cent – that's almost a 10 per cent increase on before.

This is, of course, impacting on draws, which are down to 17.7 per cent from 26.1 per cent.

It means that matches behind closed doors are far more likely to see away wins than they are stalemates – there have been 48 away wins since the restart and just 23 draws.

The results also suggest visiting teams are benefiting from greater focus without the distractions or pressure of home supporters.

Goals and cards

Across the board goals have increased in frequency since fans were told to stay away.

There have been on average three goals every game in the current state, an increase of 0.3 from before, though the biggest overall change is reflected by away goals.

Home teams are conceding on average 1.4 goals per game at the moment, up from 1.1 prior to June, while goals scored are only up to 1.6 from 1.5.

While these figures may not sound like a big deal in isolation, the 144 goals scored in 2020-21 equates to 3.79 per game, the highest such ratio in the top flight since 1931.

And, curiously, it appears referees have become stricter on the whole with regards to minor offences without fans constantly dishing out abuse at the man in the middle.

Yellow card frequency has increased from 1.3 per game to 1.5, though red cards have decreased on average – there were 0.06 per game, but that figure is 0.05 for games behind closed doors.

More crazy results?

As you can see, so-called 'home advantage' does still appear to be alive, with home teams taking at least a point in 63 per cent of matches, but away victories have accounted for over a third of all matches since the start of June.

That is a significant boost, suggesting 2020-21 looks set to be particularly anomalous if it continues without fans in attendance - but don't expect Manchester United to lose 6-1 at Old Trafford every other week.