Crowd of football fans waving flags from the stands.

Cheering for your team can help them win games

Credit: Pixabay/Networkerz

Have you ever been to a football game? It’s exciting to cheer on your team in a stadium full of fans. But have you ever wondered if your cheers make a difference? With sports being played in empty stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found that home advantage has disappeared along with the crowds.

Scientists at the University of Salzburg in Austria turned to soccer for this research. They looked at 1,286 matches across top leagues in Europe from the 2019–20 season and chose games where there were few or no spectators. To compare, they also looked at the 2018–19 season, where crowds were normal.

When there were big crowds, home teams had a big advantage. They won 48.1% of games, and only lost 27.6% of the time – the remaining 24.3% of matches were drawn. When there were no crowds, the results were significantly different. The home team advantage was slashed, with them winning just 39.8% of games, losing 36.0% and drawing 24.2%.

The researchers also spotted another statistic that could help explain where the home advantage came from. When there were crowds, the referees gave fewer yellow card penalties to the home team than the visitors. With no crowd in the stadium, the referees instead gave more yellow cards to the home team!

This isn’t the first time that scientists have looked at these questions. In 2002, scientists played recordings of games back to referees. The referees were stricter on the home team when the sound of the crowd was muted. The new research adds to these findings.

So next time your favourite team is playing, and you’re allowed to go see them, why not go cheer them on? You might just give them the edge they need to win the game!

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