Research - 23.08.2016 - 00:00 

German soccer Bundesliga: home advantage only works at weekends

Does it make a difference whether a team of the German Bundesliga plays in midweek or at the weekend? Yes, it does, is the surprising answer, because on normal working days, home advantage does not work. Those who are more frequently on the pitch in the middle of the week are disadvantaged in comparison with other teams.
Source: HSG Newsroom

24 August 2016. Under the heading "Midweek Effect on Performance: Evidence from the German Soccer Bundesliga", Dr. Alex Krumer and Prof. Dr. Michael Lechner from the Swiss Institute for Economic Empirical Research (SEW-HSG) evaluated the data from no fewer than 1,908 football matches of the last ten years. Their econometric analysis revealed that midweek games do not only attract fewer people to stadiums and have lower TV ratings but also have a home advantage of practically zero. For teams with more frequent midweek games, this may result in a worse position in the final table, as well as generating less revenue for the club.

The well-known phenomenon of "home advantage"
"The home advantage phenomenon is a well-known feature in many sports competitions. It means that with a balanced home and away schedule, the home team wins over 50 per cent of the matches. According to our analysis, however, the point difference between home and away games is reduced from 0.49 at weekends to virtually zero," say the two HSG researchers.

If all the teams of the German Bundesliga played the same number of midweek games in their home stadiums, all of them would enjoy a level playing field. According to Alex Krumer and Michael Lechner, however, this is not the case. "Some teams have fewer matches in their home stadiums in midweek. There the present schedules put them at a disadvantage."

Alex Krumer and Michael Lechner use the example of SC Paderborn to illustrate the impact an unbalanced schedule can have on clubs’ league table position and revenues. "Of course we do not claim that the main reason for the relegation of SC Paderborn was the fact that this team had to receive its closest rival for a home game in midweek. But it shows that an impact on the final table and thus also on future revenues is possible." Also, midweek games attract a substantially lower gate, which in turn may be reflected in less revenue.

Balanced schedule enhances fairness
And what do the findings mean for the coming Bundesliga season? "As in previous seasons, this season also involves midweek matches," say Alex Krumer and Michael Lechner. SC Freiburg, for instance, which was promoted to the Bundesliga, would only have to play one home game and three away games during the week. Conversely, FC Ingolstadt was only scheduled to play two home games in midweek. "More importantly, these games are against SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, which survived relegation only in the play-off matches. If we assume that these three teams will be involved in the relegation fights, then SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt have an unfair advantage over FC Ingolstadt 04."

In the two HSG researchers’ view, it is worthwhile for the Bundesliga management (DFL) to allocate the midweek matches evenly among teams. For example, if there was a midweek round in the first half of the season, then there should be a midweek round in the second half of the season – and it should involve the same teams, even if this means changing the order of games in both halves of the season. "This more balanced schedule increases the fairness of the tournament," emphasise Alex Krumer and Michael Lechner.

photo: nikkytok -