Football is nothing with the fans. We can all sit down and watch an exciting Premier League game from home, but the fake crowd noise and empty stadiums are difficult not to notice… especially when the producers click the wrong sound effect and fans are suddenly celebrating a simple square pass.
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the whole of the 2020/21 campaign has been played with no fans in stadiums, something which is due to change for the final two gameweeks of the season.
But just how much has the lack of fans contributed to results in the Premier League? It should be pretty obvious, right? Heading to Anfield without the rapturous Kop End is a totally different proposition.
Playing at St. James’ Park without 50,000 Geordies screaming down your neck surely makes things easier. The lack of fans should level out the playing field, making home advantage less important and give away teams a massive boost.
This must also make a difference with the decisions made by the officials. When fans scream at every foul committed by the away team, by the law of averages a referee is going to be swayed at least once.
So let’s look at it in more detail, to truly understand the effect it has had.
With two gameweeks to go, there have been 133 home wins in the Premier League this season, and 145 wins away from home. That’s staggering. Home advantage has gone out the window.
To put it into context, we need to analyse the figures from the 2019/20 season. At the same stage last campaign, there were 183 home wins and 108 away wins.
The difference is clear to see. Yes, for the final few weeks of last season there were also no fans, but that only serves to illustrate just how huge a factor home advantage was before the start of the pandemic if the gap is still that large.
We can investigate this further. The 2019/20 champions Liverpool were unbeaten at home last season, winning 18 and drawing just one. This season they have won nine and lost six with one home match to go. Those six losses came back-to-back in a record-breaking run for the club, which included 1-0 losses to Burnley, Fulham and Brighton.
Sure, perhaps Liverpool as a team haven’t been as formidable, with injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, while Sadio Mane has suffered a terrible loss of form.
But what’s more interesting though are Manchester City’s statistics. Last season they finished second, and had a ‘bad’ season by their standards. This season they are Premier League champions and in the Champions League final.
During the 2019/20 campaign, City won 15 games at home. This season they have won 12 with one fixture at the Etihad Stadium left to play. During a potentially historic season for the club where they could go on to win the Champions League, they have won less home games in the league compared to last season where they were nowhere near as good.
So it is absolutely apparent that home advantage has completely vanished with no fans in stadiums. We have seen a number of shock results, like Sheffield United beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford and Fulham winning at Anfield, which just showcases this.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Football is nothing without the fans, and there is no doubt that their absence is playing a huge part in the results we are seeing this season in the Premier League.
They are set to return in the coming days for the final few fixtures of the season, and it will be wonderful to behold. Alongside the recent fiasco of the European Super League, one thing the Premier League must learn is to never take fans for granted ever again.