Gradually resuming after a hiatus, the national football championships are once again attracting numerous sports betting fans. Meanwhile, for at least several months the matches will be held behind closed doors, that is, with empty stands – how this will affect the betting market, read our material.

Custom Field Advantage

The main factor to consider when placing bets on closed matches is the home team’s home advantage. According to statistics, the home team scores on average 0.25-0.5 more goals than the away team, and the Pinnacle BC closing odds show that the average probability of a home win in the top 5 European leagues is about 45%.

In this case, the advantage of its own field is manifested in different components. We will try to analyze each of them in order to understand which of them have a greater influence on the rates, and take them into account in the future in betting.

Judging in silence

It is noted that data from the recently introduced video replay system into wide circulation can demonstrate the potential influence of fans of a local team, creating a certain noise and emotional background, on refereeing.

In theory, the video replay system was introduced so that the refereeing was objective and did not depend on the public, so any decrease in the ratio between the number of penalties on home and away can be considered confirmation that the presence of fans of the local team really affects refereeing.

Meanwhile, there is scientific evidence that fans influence referee decisions. Thus, in one study, 40 referees were asked to judge the recording of the Liverpool-Leicester City match at Anfield stadium in the 1998/99 season. Half of them watched the match with public noise, while the rest watched the silent version.

Referees who heard the crowd noise were less likely to punish the home team than those who watched the recording without sound. This confirms the results of the analysis of the impact of VAR on the number of penalties awarded to the local team. Therefore, in this area, the impact of the lack of fans should be most visible.

Knowing your field

It is logical to assume that home field advantage can be enhanced if the team is familiar with the venue of the meeting. This phenomenon is sometimes explained by an instinctive increase in the level of the game, because the visiting team can be compared to the invaders in your territory.

In support of this phenomenon, one study found elevated testosterone levels in home team footballers, supporting previous studies on hormone levels, home pitch and territorial relationships.

Another factor that can affect the advantage of your own field is adaptation to the size of your field, which directly affects both the sweep of attacking actions and the building of defensive formations. Both of these factors operate regardless of the presence of the local team’s fans. Thus, home field advantage will most likely manifest itself in games without spectators.

Experience gained

There are already several recent examples of games played behind closed doors, even before the football championships were paused. We remember that the last matches of the European cup tournaments and the Italian Serie A were played without fans at the stadium. The problem with isolating home field advantage in these matches stems from the extremely small sample size and several other factors such as first meeting results, opponents and team composition.

At the same time, in Serie A, the estimated percentage of home wins according to the closing odds of the Pinnacle BC was much higher for local teams, which seems at first glance completely paradoxical. However, if we look at the positions occupied in the league by the participants of these matches, then the explanation for this circumstance is found by itself. So, Juventus (1st place) took Inter (3rd place), Sassuolo (11th place) played at home with Brescia (20th place), Milan (7th place) e) at San Siro met Genoa (17th), while visiting Parma (9th) was SPAL (19th).

Thus, in several matches played without spectators, the visiting team was potentially inferior to the hosts, while the number of guests included two teams occupying the last places in Serie A. However, this data does not tell us much, since the comparison the estimated home win percentage with averages for this Italian league season would not be entirely correct.

Opening and closing lines

The smartest way seems to be to use the opening and closing lines for matches that were planned as regular bouts in front of spectators, but ended up being held behind closed doors. This allows us to see and evaluate how the odds change as the advantage of our field decreases.

We have a selection of such matches. The first four matches of the 1/8 finals of the Europa League were planned to be held with filled stands, but closer to the date of the event, they were transferred to a closed mode. The Table below shows the corresponding opening and closing line ratios:

In three out of four matches, the estimated probability of a home win was decreasing by the start of the meeting, and it was only in Wolfsburg’s meeting with Shakhtar (Donetsk) that there was a significant advantage towards the hosts, despite the lack of fans. One of the reasons for this could be Shakhtar’s weakened roster, caused by injuries to Stepanenko and Tite, two of the team’s best players. In addition, Wolfsburg performed in a stronger lineup than originally expected.

Assumptions like these illustrate a serious problem with the dataset used here. If line-up changes and other factors could shift the balance in favor of the home team, offsetting the potential loss of home field advantage, how can this phenomenon be attributed to a guest advantage?

How effective are the odds for matches without spectators?

There is another drawback to this view of matches: we assume that the odds themselves are effective. Meanwhile, if the opening odds were effective, then in the case of Europa League games, they could already take into account the likelihood of transferring the match to a closed mode.

Sometimes the odds may not correspond to the assumed probabilities due to specific circumstances or lack of information. Of course, our situation can also be called specific. The very fact that none of the home teams won these UEFA European Cup matches (including Eintracht’s unexpected defeat to Basel) suggests that the odds for these matches were ineffective. Still, the sample size is too small for such a conclusion to be unambiguous.

Thus, we made sure that the home field advantage in matches without spectators should be reduced, but it is difficult to say how much. Since the home advantage is difficult to take into account when calculating the odds, the bettor may have time to place a profitable bet until the market reveals the most effective odds. In other words, the most astute players can find their chances here.

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