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The Real Reasons Behind the Home Field Advantage
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    No notes for slide
  • Does not affect NFL or MLB or soccer
  • Home team ahead vs. behindHome team way head or behindChange in point system
  • Home team ahead vs. behindHome team way head or behindChange in point system
  • Coffee store owner and change jar.
  • Coffee store owner and change jar.
  • Feb. 2, 2007 Calcio Catania vs. Palermo Calcio
  • Imagine father who finds his teenage daughter kissing her boyfriend. He’s upset about the kiss, but he’s more upset about what else might be going on when he didn’t happen to look.If we can find some instances where referees exhibit bias, Lord knows what other ways they may be favoring the home team.


  • 1. The RealReason Behind Home Field Advantage
  • 2. Game Plan
    Hidden side of sports
    Challenge convention, explore new angles
    Facts about home field advantage
    Conventional explanations and why they fail
    The real reasons behind HFA
  • 3. Home Field Advantage
    No myth!
    For all sports
    At all times in history
    In all geographies
    Why does it exist?
    Not for the reasons you think.
    First, the facts . . .
  • 4. Source: Sports Illustrated, Jan. 17, 2011 “What’s Really Behind Home Field Advantage?” by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
  • 5. WHY?
  • 6. Home Field Advantage
    Four facts to remember:
    Exists in every sport
    Different across sports (soccer vs. baseball)
    Same for a given sport no matter where played
    Stable over time (same as 100 years ago)
  • 7. Myth #1: Crowd Support
    How do you test for crowd effects exclusively?
    Free throw shooting in the NBA
    Shootouts in the NHL
    Pitchers and batters in MLB
    Punters/kickers in the NFL
    QB’s and crowd noise in the NFL
    If not much effect in these situations, how much impact could it have generally?
  • 8. Myth #1: Crowd Support
  • 9. Myth #1: Crowd Support
    *Control for: type of pitch, inning, pitch count, leverage. . . found no differences
  • 10. Myth #2: Travel Fatigue
    What happens when two teams from the same (or nearby) city play each other?
    What happens when two teams from vast distances play each other?
    U.S. vs. Canada
  • 11. Myth #2: Travel Fatigue
    Advantage is same as it was 100 years ago
    In soccer, no difference in advantage for vast vs. miniscule countries
    Netherlands, Costa Rica, El Salvador same as in U.S., Brazil, Australia
  • 12. Myth #3: Schedule Bias
    Road teams play tougher schedules than home teams
    More back-to-back games in NBA and NHL
    College sports exhibit the biggest effect
    Adjusting for scheduling, NCAA basketball and football look the same as NBA and NFL
    Does not affect NFL or MLB or soccer
  • 13. Myth #4: Home Familiarity
    Are teams built to take advantage of their unique home field characteristics?
    Doesn’t seem to matter much
    Cold vs. tropical weather teams in the NFL
    “Hitter” and “Pitcher” ballparks in MLB
    NBA and NHL?
    MLB has largest home field differences, yet lowest home field advantage
  • 14. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    Referee bias toward the home team
    How do you identify this?
    Need to examine something controlled by referees but not influenced by players
    Extra “injury” time in soccer
    Also, red and yellow cards, fouls, free kicks
  • 15. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    Referee injury time doubled if home team behind by one goal vs. ahead by one goal.
  • 16. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    Strike-ball calls by umpires in MLB
    Home batter and pitcher favoritism
    Crucial vs. inconsequential situations
    Umpire monitoring technology (QuesTec)
  • 17. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    Over a season visitors get 516 more strike outs and 195 fewer walks on the same pitches
  • 18. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    July 3, 2009 Cubs vs. Brewers . . . At Wrigley
  • 19. The Real Reason Behind HFA
    NFL: penalties, yards/penalty, turnovers
    Instant replay challenge (1999)---lowered HFA 30%
    Visitors get more bad (overturned) calls
    NBA: fouls, turnovers, violations
    Subjective calls: travelling, offensive fouls
    Objective calls: shot-clock violations
    NHL: same pattern
    Remember shootout results?
  • 20. The Real Reason Behind HFA
  • 21. Why Do Referees Favor the Home Team?
    No conspiracy, but psychology
    Social influence
    Humans conform to group opinion because:
    Social pressure
    Seeking information from the crowd
    Referees see things the way the crowd does
    Uncertain calls from information
  • 22. Behavioral Explanation
    If true, then effects should be worse
    The more ambiguous the call
    The larger and more vocal the crowd
    Both are true
    HFA in every sport grows with attendance
    *(controlling for team quality)
  • 23. Attendance Effect
  • 24. Attendance Effect
  • 25. Still Not Convinced?
    Psychology experiment with real soccer referees and video-taped matches
    German soccer stadiums with a track
    Italian soccer “experiment” with NO fans
  • 26. What About the Four Facts We Started With?
    Exists in every sport because referees in every sport are human
    Different across sports because referees have bigger impact in some sports than others
    Same for a given sport no matter where played because ref has same role
    Hasn’t changed over time because role of referee has been pretty constant