No crowds, no home advantage in football during the COVID-19 season: are crowds able to manipulate all but the best referees’ behaviour?

Alan Nevill*, Alastair William Pearson, Thomas Webb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study confirmed that without crowds there was no home advantage in associationfootball during the COVID-19 2020-21 season. Consequently, we sort to answer the obviousquestion, “Are crowds influencing referees’ behaviour?” The number of home and away redand yellow cards awarded in the “no crowd” COVID-19 2020-21 season (all 4 top Englishdivisions) were compared with the home and away cards awarded during the previous 10“crowd” seasons (2010-11 to 2019-20). Results revealed that there was no home advantage inred and yellow cards awarded by referees in all 4 English leagues/divisions during theCOVID-19 2020-21 season. Referees awarded significantly more cards to away players whenadjudicating with crowds (seasons 2010-11 to 2019-20). However in more recent “crowd”seasons, Premier League referees are less susceptible to such influences with a narrowing ofthe gap between home and away yellow cards, suggesting that their preparation, managementand training provides them with an element of “crowd immunity”. It would appear that homecrowds are able to influence all but the very best referees’ behaviour. These new insightsprovide important information for the training and management of referees.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Global Sport Management
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 17 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Soccer
  • Spectators
  • Premier League
  • Sports officials
  • Crowd immunity

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