I’ve never understood the idea that the “home team” has any “advantage” in a sporting event, for being at its home field, or court, or stadium, or arena. One might say that that’s because I’m not much of a “sports” kind of guy, and so I don’t know these things, but it’s really never made sense to me. I play volleyball now, and have played other sports in the past, and I know that I play the best I can regardless of where I’m playing.
People have told me that the advantage come from the support of the fans, or because they “know the field” better, but can that really be it? One would think that major sporting venues would be pretty much standardized, at least as to the playing field, and that any differences would be known by all teams over time. And wouldn’t any pump-up that can be attributed to cheering fans of one team be counterbalanced by extra “adrenaline” in the other team, in a desire to give an “Up yours!” to the home team and their fans?
Some excerpts from the paper, which is generally chock full of mathematics:
In typical soccer reports one can read that a team is particularly strong at home (or away) or that it is particularly successful in scoring goals (or has a particularly good defense) and that it is just playing a positive series (Lauf in German) or a negative series. Here we show that the actual data do not support all of these pieces of common knowledge of a soccer fan.And then this, from the concluding discussion:
It will turn out that there is indeed no additional team-specific home ﬁtness. In contrast, the concept of the goal ﬁtness can be backed up by the data, but only as a minor eﬀect.
Whenever a team plays better at home than expected (in terms of its ∆GH - ∆GA) this eﬀect can be fully explained in terms of the natural statistical ﬂuctuations, inherent in soccer matches.
Probably, for a typical soccer fan also this statistical analysis will not change the belief that, e.g., his/her support will give the team the necessary impetus to the next goal and ﬁnally to a specific home ﬁtness. Thus, there may exist a natural, maybe even fortunate, tendency to ignore some objective facts about professional soccer. We hope, however, that the present analysis may be of relevance to those who like to see the systematic patterns behind a sports like soccer. Naturally, all concepts discussed in this work can be extended to different types of sports.
Well, there we go. My guess about the lore of the “home field advantage” is that it derives from confirmation bias: the fans tend to remember the home wins, and forget the home losses.