Home and away results have NOT returned to the old normal this season

By Tony Attwood

Yet another story the press won’t report because it undermines their entire thesis that refereeing is accurate, and PL referees are the best in the world.

However because as ever, no one else will spill the beans, we’ll be the ones to kick the can over (or words to that effect, although I may have got my metaphors slightly confused there).

If you are a regular reader you will know we have been tracking home and away results in recent years, coming up with these figures.

Season Home percentage of points Away percentage of points
2018/19 57% 43%
2019/20 58% 42%
2020/21 44% 56%

We spilt the beans as to what was going on, in an article on 19 May 2020, “Crowdless stadia stats reveal the fallacy of PGMO claims about referee accuracy”   As ever the whole article remains on the site, but if you don’t want to plough through, its point is that serious academic research shows that referees tend to give the benefit to home teams, in Premier League games, when there is a crowd in the ground.  And they do it because of crowd noise.

The fact that home teams win more often across the history of the league is indisputable – the reason for that trend was the issue of debate, and the research pinpointed the reason clearly: referees even at the highest level are slightly influenced by the crowd in the decisions they make.

Thus when the crowds vanished during the covid crisis, that influence on the referees vanished, and in fact went into reverse.  The refs, relieved of the pressure of the crowds, overcompensated the other way and favoured the away team.

However now with crowds back in the grounds this season we expected the refereeing to return to its norm of home bias, and thus home wins would become the norm.

However, this has not been the case.  In fact, this season 36% of games in the Premier League have been home wins 38% of games away wins 26 games have been drawn.

Converting this into the home and away percentage of points as above, 49% of points have been won by the home team and 51% of points by the away team.

That clearly is a swing back from the 2020/21 season, but nothing like a return to the previous norm.  For ease of reading, I’ve set this season thus far in the table format as above

Season Home percentage of points Away percentage of points
2018/19 57% 43%
2019/20 58% 42%
2020/21 44% 56%
2021/22* 49% 51%

*After 100 games.

Now the reason that the media are not covering this is twofold.  First, because they refused to cover the move away from home bias to away bias and the LSE research when those figures first appeared, so to cover it now would mean revealing what they so successfully covered up in the past.  And second, the move from home bias to away bias was explained in the LSE analyses, by vagaries in refereeing behaviour – and this the referees (and their lapdogs in the media) will never admit.

But there is a spot of good news in all this.  Really there should be minimal bias between home and away win percentages.  It can be argued that home teams have a slight advantage because they are playing on a ground they know, and don’t have a journey before the game.  But these are professionals who have been playing the game at the highest level for five or six years on average, and are used to the travel and the fans.  A 27-year-old player who is playing away and is put off by jeering and chanting, really shouldn’t be playing at Premier League level – and in fact, probably won’t be.

But as so often happens in football, no one had previously analysed what the referees were doing in terms of the way they were favouring the home team against the way team with their decision making.  But when the analysis was done, it was shown that the home crowd was the cause.  Take out the home crowd noise (as the experiment which used PGMO referees) did, and the bias goes.

That influence has of course returned, but it would seem that the PGMO and its employees have themselves been very aware of the academic research and our reporting of it all the way through.

The result is, that at least for the moment, the crowds are back, but they are influencing referees hardly at all and thus home and away points are more balanced.  Which is how it should be.

But there is one sadness in all this.  The media utterly refuse to touch the story.  Indeed, as I reported several times, the venerable science magazine New Scientist even ran a story for subscribers (it arrived as an email not within the weekly magazine) suggesting that there was no bias LAST season.

I wrote and protested, providing the magazine with a welter of statistical evidence, and on receiving no reply, cancelled my subscription.  That sort of lunatic misrepresentation of statistics is not what I expect from a serious science publication.

Anyway, the long and short is, the home advantage of the past, and the away advantage of the time without crowds, has now vanished.   Let’s hope it stays like that.

2 Replies to “Home and away results have NOT returned to the old normal this season”

  1. OT

    Has anybody seen what Pulis is moaning about. Apparently he’s worried a manager might get attacked. For a bloke whose key coaching tactic was to teach his team to deliberately injure opposition players as severely as possible, it’s a bit of a joke to say the least.

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