Many theories have been put forward as to why playing in front of their own supporters can give the home team an advantage. These include being comfortable in familiar surroundings, not having to travel significant distances and being cheered on by the majority of the crowd.
Putting aside any potential reasons for this home advantage, my blog this week takes a look at the actual percentages of ‘Home Wins’, ‘Draws’ and ‘Away Wins’ over a 20-year period in each of the top four divisions of English football.
Before beginning, I should point out that I have included figures from the 2011/12 season so far in my findings below:
Premier League (level one)
- The highest percentage of ‘Home Wins’ came in the 2009/10 season at 50.79%
- The percentage of ‘Home Wins’ has only risen above 50% on two occasions in the last 20 seasons (2005/06 & 2009/10)
- The lowest percentage of ‘Home Wins’ came in the 1993/94 season at 41.56%
- The percentage of ‘Draws’ has been greater than the percentage of ‘Away Wins’ in 11 of the previous 20 seasons
- If maintained, the current 32.11% of ‘Away Wins’ in the 2011/12 season would set a Premier League record
Home advantage has clearly been important since the formation of the Premier League, with the percentages suggesting that you should expect between four and five home victories on any given weekend. The amount of ‘Draws’ and ‘Away Wins’ have fluctuated far more, with the former holding the upper hand in each of the first five seasons of the Premier League and the latter holding sway for four consecutive campaigns starting in 2005/06.
Championship (level two)
- The percentage of ‘Home Wins’ has reached 50% in just one of the previous 20 seasons (1993/94)
- Just 22.28% of matches finished as ‘Draws’ in the 2006/07 campaign
- The amount of ‘Draws’ outnumbered the amount of ‘Away Wins’ for eight consecutive seasons starting from 1992/93
Despite being painted as the most unpredictable of divisions, the percentage of ‘Home Wins’ has assumed a similar level to that taken by its Premier League cousin. In fact, the lack of peaks and troughs in the graph for ‘Home Wins’ is startling when compared with that for the top-flight, suggesting that the level of consistency in this division, in this category at least, is far greater from one season to the next.
League One (level three)
- The percentage of ‘Home Wins’ has never climbed above 50% or below 40% in a completed season
- In the first three seasons of this study, the percentages for ‘Draws’ and ‘Away Wins’ were never more than 0.37% apart
- The figures for the current season are far closer in each of the three categories than has traditionally been the case, with ‘Home Wins’ at 37.93%, ‘Draws’ at 29.56% and ‘Away Wins’ at 32.51%
Prior to this season, there had been a real consistency to the percentage of ‘Home Wins’ in this division. That has to be seen as somewhat surprising given the annual changing of clubs due to promotion and relegation. Another point worth noting is just how little the figures for ‘Draws’ and ‘Away Wins’ have differed from each other over each of the previous 20 campaigns.
League Two (level four)
- The 2007/08 season in League Two was the most noteworthy of any of the 80 campaigns looked at in this study with the percentage of ‘Home Wins’ being just 1.45% greater than that for ‘Away Wins’
- The percentage of ‘Away Wins’ was greater than the percentage of ‘Draws’ in each of the first three seasons of this study
- Starting in 2000/01, the percentage of ‘Draws’ was greater than the percentage of ‘Away Wins’ in this division for six consecutive seasons
By and large, the differences between each of the four divisions that I have looked at have not been stark. That was not the case in 2007/08, however, when ‘Away Wins’ became a massive factor in League Two. That had been a somewhat isolated campaign until this season, but the current figure of 34.31% for ‘Away Wins’ in League Two is the second-highest in any of the divisions over the previous 20 years.
Figures taken from the previous 20 seasons in each of the top four divisions of English football suggest that playing at home does indeed provide a team with an undoubted advantage. The graphs for each of the four leagues that I have looked at are relatively similar, which is somewhat surprising given the increased movement of teams in the lower divisions (i.e. through promotion & relegation) and the financial clout of some of the bigger clubs in the Premier League. Perhaps the most startling feature of my findings, however, is the increase in the percentage of ‘Away Wins’ in the current 2011/12 season. This figure is on course to be the highest it has been in each of the top three divisions over the last 20 years, whilst being second only to the remarkable 2007/08 campaign in League Two.