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Does Crowd Support Drive the Home Advantage in Professional Football? Evidence from German Ghost Games during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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  • Kai Fischer
  • Justus Haucap

Abstract

This paper examines the relation between crowd support and home advantage in men’s professional football in making use of a unique “natural experiment†induced by restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic: the so-called ghost games in the top three German football divisions at the end of the 2019/2020 season. We find that there is a reduced home advantage in the first division, whereas no change is observed in the second and third divisions. Our regression analysis indicates that the decrease in the home advantage and the heterogeneity across divisions are not sensitive to a variety of performance, location, and team covariates and are best explained through the lower occupancy rate in the stadia. Hence, the decrease in occupancy to zero at the ghost games has been less dramatic for teams that have been used to low occupancy rates. We cannot find strong evidence for a change in referee behavior or teams’ tactics as main impact channels of occupancy rates on the home advantage. Hence, we argue that psychological reasons are of higher importance.

Suggested Citation

  • Kai Fischer & Justus Haucap, 2021. "Does Crowd Support Drive the Home Advantage in Professional Football? Evidence from German Ghost Games during the COVID-19 Pandemic," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 22(8), pages 982-1008, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jospec:v:22:y:2021:i:8:p:982-1008
    DOI: 10.1177/15270025211026552
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    Cited by:

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    3. Christoph Buehren & Dominic Jung, 2022. "Performing without pressure? The effect of ghost games on effort- and skill-based tasks in the football Bundesliga," MAGKS Papers on Economics 202227, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    4. Minnich, Aljoscha, 2022. "Do fans’ emotions influence charitable donations? Evidence from monetary and returnable cup donations in German soccer stadiums," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    5. Starke, Stephan & Vischer, Lars & Dilger, Alexander, 2022. "Change in home bias due to ghost games in the NFL," Discussion Papers of the Institute for Organisational Economics 6/2022, University of Münster, Institute for Organisational Economics.
    6. J. James Reade & Dominik Schreyer & Carl Singleton, 2022. "Eliminating supportive crowds reduces referee bias," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 60(3), pages 1416-1436, July.
    7. Dmitry Dagaev & Sofia Paklina & J. James Reade & Carl Singleton, 2021. "The Iron Curtain and Referee Bias in International Football," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2021-14, Department of Economics, University of Reading.
    8. Carl Singleton & J. James Reade & Dominik Schreyer, 2021. "A decade of violence and empty stadiums in Egypt: When does emotion from the terraces affect behaviour on the pitch?," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2021-21, Department of Economics, University of Reading.

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