Home advantage to possibly disappear behind closed doors when League of Ireland returns

Sun, Jun 07 2020

Behind closed door games ahead when League of Ireland returns Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

The Bundesliga was the first major league in Europe to return to action following the COVID-19 suspension of football. One of the remarkable things about the resumption of football in Germany has been the quantity of wins secured by the away teams from the 45 games played since the league returned.

With the matches being played behind closed doors, these Geisterspiele (or ghost games as they are called in Germany) have returned a number of away wins beyond the norm.

Since the Bundesliga's return, across the five series of games to date by far the most common result has been an away win – an incredible 47%.

While 31% of the matches have ended in draws, only 22% saw the result end in a win for the home team.

Before the COVID-19 break, typically home teams won 43% of the time, draws 22% and away 35%. Traditionally the Premier League in England has a home / draw / away split of 45% /25% / 30%.

Home advantage has been studied over the years, with the home crowd influence on the referee being the main reason for the typical dominate percentage of home wins. 

Scorecasting by Toby Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim documents the hidden influences of playing at home and there is a paper by Thomas Dohmen that looked into this specifically in the Bundesliga across nine seasons: 

Those, who are appointed to be impartial, tend to favor the home team as they systematically award more injury time in close matches when the home team is behind. Further evidence for similar home bias comes from referees' wrong, or at least disputable, decisions to award goals and penalty shots.”

Take away the crowd, and you take away the main advantage to playing at home - even if it is typically an unconscious bias from the referee that favours the home team.

So what might that mean in the League of Ireland context. Now you can make jokes about the size of the crowds in our domestic league but the usual Bundesliga/Premier League win percentage figures broadly resemble the overall League of Ireland stats since the Premier Division was set up in 1985/86. 

Across the 6,531 matches played to date (excluding the 2020 results), home teams have a win percentage of 41%, draws 27% and away wins 32%.

So if the League of Ireland does return at some stage towards the end of the summer behind closed doors, the away teams will be hoping they can match the trends that have emerged in the Bundesliga post COVID-19.

Even if Dundalk have only lost one home league game since 2018, it may no longer by fortress Oriel Park when the League of Ireland returns.