This article spotlights the development of home field advantage in European football. The pure existence of home field advantage already is a mystery, it can be observed in many sports and also in football. We have seen that home advantage has been much more significant in the past, especially the 1970s. We will have a closer look on the development of home field advantage in the European leagues over the last five to seven decades.
Applying the new method for calculating home advantage as explained in the last article allows us to have a closer look at different leagues.
Let us start with the big five leagues, league competitions from bigger countries in Europe that have always had good quality clubs and at the same time a balanced competition. The x-axis denotes the year, the y-Axis represents the home field advantage in Elo points and we compare Spain, England, (West) Germany, Italy, France and the home field advantage for European Cups as a reference.
The global trend is that home field advantage is decreasing everywhere, especially since the beginning of the 1980s. In England and Italy, home field advantage has not changed a lot over the decades, approximately 10 Elo points per decade, and has reached 70 Elo points today. In France and especially (West) Germany, there had been a significant rise in home field advantage; in Germany, around 1970, it doubled in less than 10 years from 100 to 200. In Spain home field advantage has been far above 200 Elo points for decades. Within 30 years, it dropped from nearly 250 to barely 50 in the mid 2000s and has risen significantly since. Home field advantage in European Cups has historically been very big (around 250 Elo points). Since 1990, it dramatically dropped and currently stabilizes around 100 Elo points.
Globally, it can be observed that since the 1990s, all the curves seem to converge compared to past decades. Let us have a look at more countries. The second tier of European Leagues shows a slightly different picture:
There is not a clear pattern visible as for the big leagues. In Portugal, home field advantage is - similar to Spain - comparatively important. In Belgium and the Netherlands, there has not been a big change, however a slight peak in the 1970s is visible. In the Soviet Union and successor states, home field advantage has been most significant in the 1990s. In Scottish club football which has seen thoughout history very strong and very weak phases, home field advantage has never been very relevant. In the 2010s, home field advantage has even dropped significantly below 50, which means that it is almost nonexistant.
There is more:
Romania is the country where historically home field advantage has been very important, surpassing 250 Elo points for more two decades. In Sweden and Norway, home field advantage has never played a big role, although Norway curiously has the most important home field advantage in Europe today. The Austrian curve can be partly explained by the dominance of Vienna clubs in the late 1940s when every single club in the league came from Vienna.
The mystery of home advantage is not solved yet, but we now have a lot of visualised information to draw conlusions: It seems that European club football has reached a stage now where home field advantage does not vary that much by region anymore. In the Nordic countries Scotland, Sweden, Norway (and partly England), there has not been that much change over the years. On European level however, in Spain and especially in Romania something significantly changed in the last 20 years. Just what can it be?