The cost of playing away

September 24, 1999

Britain's most far-flung football teams may have the most formidable grounds but will suffer when playing away, according to statisticians who have calculated how significant home advantage can be in determining the result of a match.

John Norman, an operational research expert at Sheffield University, told a meeting at the British Association's Festival of Science that the distance between two clubs could have an important effect on the outcome of a game.

Research carried out with Australian statistician Stephen Clarke revealed this could vary from an average 0.7 goal advantage for the home team when the visitors had to travel 50 miles to reach the ground right up to 1.5 goals if the journey was 300 miles.

The experts drew their conclusions after evaluating the home advantage by analysing English Premier League results.

Norman admitted that the variability in the strength of opposing sides made predicting matches on the basis of this advantage perilous. Nevertheless, he noted: "In statistical terms, the correlation is highly significant."

He put the effect down possibly to the impact on a player's performance of either a long journey prior to playing or having to spend a night in an unfamiliar hotel.

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