Do ISL Teams Really have a Home Advantage?

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It’s been nearly six months since ATK lifted the Indian Super League (ISL) trophy in the Fatorda stadium. A lot of things have been changed since then due to the prevailing pandemic. Masks and social distancing became a part of the livelihoods, teachings shifted from classrooms to computer screens, stadiums are closed for the sporting activities, and so on. The world is adapting to the new normal and so is Indian football.

The FSDL is all set to organize the upcoming ISL season by creating a bio bubble in Goa. The matches will be played behind closed doors at three stadiums — Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, GMC Athletic Stadium, Bambolim and Tilak Maidan Stadium, Vasco.

Fatorda, the home ground of FC Goa, has hosted multiple ISL games including two ISL finals whereas the latter two stadiums have hosted multiple I-League games but are yet to host an ISL match. These were also two of the training grounds for the 2017 FIFA U17 world cup.

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Albeit this being one of the longest offseason in Indian football, there is no shortage of excitement among the fans of the beautiful game. From City group owned Mumbai City FC willing to splash ₹1.6 cr transfer fee for Hugo Boumous to Kolkata giants East Bengal joining the ISL, fans are entertained each day and all are waiting to watch their favorite team in action soon.

With matches all set to be held behind closed doors, the fans will certainly miss cheering for their teams at the stadium but will the teams miss the home atmosphere? To answer this let’s look at some of the stats from the last season.

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ISL Teams performance in home and away fixtures

It is clear from the graph that all clubs managed to gain more points at home than away except Mumbai. Mumbai gained the same number of points (13) from their home and the away fixtures. We can see a similar pattern when it comes to the number of wins also. All teams except Chennaiyin, Hyderabad, and Northeast picked more wins at home than away while the mentioned clubs manage to find an equilibrium between both as they have the same number of wins at home as well as away.

Goa managed to win the most number of games at home. They won 7 matches out of the nine home matches they played during the league stage. The second position is shared by ATK and Bengaluru as both teams won 6 matches at home. However, Bengaluru managed to pick 1 extra point than the champions ATK who added 19 points to the table at home.

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We can also see a huge difference in the performance of some of the clubs at home and away from the graph. Bengaluru has a 10 points difference between their home and away points which indicates their struggle in away fixtures. Next in line is Odisha with 9 points difference.

Do ISL Teams Really have a Home Advantage? IFTWC 2nd
Percentage of points won at home

The above graph shows the percentage of points each team picked up at home. All teams managed to gain at least 50% of total points from their home fixtures. This shows that teams can gain more points at their turf than the away turf. Hyderabad scored a total of 10 points last season and out of that 70% is from their home fixtures.

Do ISL Teams Really have a Home Advantage? IFTWC 3rd
Percentage of points gained out of available points

This graph shows the percentage of points won at home out of the maximum points a team can win at home. This gives us an idea of how each team benefitted from the home advantage. The league winner Goa took most of the advantages from the home matches as they won 22 points out of the available 27 points i.e. 81%. While Hyderabad FC finishes at last in this chart like their position in the ISL table with just 25%. One team worth mentioning is Odisha FC, they had a decent run in their home fixtures but their inefficiency in away fixtures cost them a top 4 spot.

It is clear from these graphs that teams have an advantage in their turf. So how are these teams getting this advantage? Many factors influence the performance of the teams. There are direct factors such as traveling, climate conditions, and indirect factors such as fan’s influence on the referee.

India being the seventh-largest country, the travel time for an away team is more in ISL. Teams have to go through a tiring day of traveling for their away fixtures. Even if a team managed to overcome this, then they have the next hurdle of adapting to the away conditions. The climate conditions of each city are different. These two have a direct impact on the performance of the traveling team.

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Fan’s influence on the referee is one of the indirect factors that favor the result of home teams. Various studies show that referees are more generous with extra time for trailing home teams and ungenerous for leading home teams. Referees have a tendency to award more penalties to the home teams and more red and yellow cards handed out to the away teams.

Since ISL is being organized behind closed doors this season with all teams being in one place, these factors won’t be there to help the home teams. So it is fair to say that teams will miss the home stadiums more than the fans.


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