By: Echoda Daniel
One of the factors that affect the outcome of football matches is the venue. In local competitions most especially, teams who play away hardly ever win. The home teams tend to have an upper hand in such a game. Even in street football, we consider it insulting to allow visiting opponents to go away with the win. We would always try our best, even if it meant being crooked, to make sure we beat them, if not, the norm is that they will return not only with songs of victory but also chants of how such victories were won in another street.
The trend is the same in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). A Premium Times report reveals that after 13 weeks in the three previous NPFL seasons, there were 85, 75, and 95 home wins as against the 14, 16, and 19 away wins respectively in the 2020/21, 2019/20, and 2018/19 seasons. At some point, it is reported that home teams have been nearly invincible. However, just as it is in everything that has to do with Nigeria, it is suspected that the phenomenon in the NPFL case is largely influenced by crooked club presidents match officials who fear the aggression of fans that think some decisions should have gone in certain ways. Whether or not that is true, teams who play at home field in the league easily get the win.
Also, the world’s most rated league, the English Premier League, is not exempt from this phenomenon. It explains why there have been quite a number of home unbeaten run records in the league. An instance is Liverpool’s recent 68 unbeaten home run. During the spell, every Premier League club dreaded playing against them at Anfield. Walking onto the pitch alone made visiting clubs think they were already handicapped. Although in this advanced level the case of bias and favouritism by referees may not be, at least not in the face of an improved refereeing standard provided by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), but somehow the raucous home support by fans and the ambience which comes only from playing at home, and a lot of other factors have helped to maintain a similar trend in the top-flight of English football.
Interestingly, the home advantage is not peculiar to football; it also counts in other sports. It is known as home ice advantage and home court advantage in hockey and basketball, respectively. Perhaps it is a general life situation, it goes beyond sports.
Generally, factors like the bias of referees, travel fatigue on the part of the visiting teams, psychological effects of expectations of fans have been identified as key drivers of the situation. Every lover of the game knows the influence of the aforementioned factors on a football match.
So punters, it is important to consider the home team advantage before making your selection. It is one of those factors that is carefully weighed before the bookmaker post betting odds. This may not hold sway with some clubs, especially when a big team plays a mid-table team; but it comes in handy when one needs to make a choice between two teams of equal stature in a league. Also, when your club plays away, especially against an opponent of equal strength, you should be prepared for anything; the home turf advantage counts.