English Premier League Matches Will Prove Whether Empty Stadiums Nullify Home-Pitch Advantage

Posted By Derek Helling on June 3, 2020
english premier league odds

There is some data to show that playing in empty stadiums negates home-pitch advantage for European soccer clubs. English Premier League matches will soon either add to that or detract from it.

The EPL will tentatively resume its 2019-20 season on June 17 and many popular US sports betting apps are ready. If the earlier data proves true, there may be some great opportunities for bettors on away clubs.

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The details on the English Premier League restart schedule

Right now, plans are hopeful but not firm. The EPL stated it hopes to have two matches on the 17th: Aston Villa versus Sheffield United and Manchester City versus Arsenal.

If that goes well, the rest of the League will resume the following weekend. Everything is still contingent upon all clubs and personnel meeting safety requirements, however.

So far, the EPL hasn’t announced start times for either presumed match on the 17th or any subsequent matches. The EPL and its broadcast partners have reached an agreement to put all 92 remaining matches on television, however.

For soccer fans all over the world, this is great news. No EPL clubs have played since March 9, making the three-month drought one of the longest in-season stoppages in EPL history.

For soccer bettors, it’s an interesting proposition. When the EPL does resume, it will do so in empty stadiums, much like Germany’s Bundesliga did last month.

How that will affect matches – and as a result the standings – is somewhat of an unknown quantity for both bettors and oddsmakers. Some research, while flawed in this application, could lend some insight toward that factor.

What research on the “empty stadium effect” tells us

While viral pandemics that effectively shut down soccer across Europe are rare, it’s actually not as rare for European football clubs to play in empty stadiums. Many football associations have forced clubs to play without fans in attendance as a disciplinary measure for bad fan behavior and corruption.

A survey of 191 such matches shows that playing without fans in attendance nullifies the advantage of playing at home.  Some highlights of the research:

  • Home teams’ win percentage dropped from 46% with fans to 36% without fans in the sample
  • Away teams’ win percentage rose from 26% with fans to 34% without fans
  • Home teams scored 21% fewer goals without fans in attendance
  • An increase in home teams receiving red cards and a decrease in away teams receiving red cards

While 191 matches sound like a great sample size, there are some things bettors should be aware of with this data. It will be up to individual bettors how much relevance they give this information.

The grains of salt to take this data with

None of these matches occurred after 2002, making this data 18-years-old. Additionally, it doesn’t include any matches that involved EPL clubs.

In this data set, clubs hadn’t just taken a three-month hiatus either. If home clubs struggle in the resumed EPL season, it could be due to rust or away clubs’ players simply taking better care to stay in top form during the break.

Another factor to consider is that the EPL may allow clubs to make extra substitutions in matches as compared to previous seasons. Bundesliga, for example, has allowed clubs five substitutions per match as opposed to the usual three.

How that will affect match strategy and therefore results of matches are unknowns right now as well. While it’s fair to speculate that the lack of a crowd might nullify home-pitch advantage for EPL clubs, quantifying exactly how much won’t be an exact science.

Some bettors could thrive in that chaos, however. Legal online sportsbooks in the various US states that allow for the activity haven’t shied away from offering EPL futures and other markets.

Looking at EPL futures and markets at US sports betting apps

One of the most common futures markets for legal sportsbooks in the US is on which clubs will finish in the top four of the EPL. That’s a coveted position because those clubs will be in position for inclusion in the UEFA Champions League.

Here are some current odds from four sports wagering apps:

EPL ClubBetMGMBetRiversDraftKingsPointsBet
Leicester-625-715-715-690
Chelsea-167-167-167-160
Manchester United+180+175+175+170
Wolverhampton+700+800+800+625
Tottenham+1100+1400+1400+1300
Sheffield United+1400+1400+1400+1400
Arsenal+1800+1600+1600+1800
Everton+15000+25000N/A+10000
BurnleyN/AN/AN/A+25000

View all current EPL betting odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

All four of those books also have markets on which player will finish the current season with the most goals. Jamie Vardy is the favorite at all four, with odds ranging from +175 to +200 on Leicester City’s striker.

Although none of these books are offering EPL-specific promotions right now, some of these bets would be eligible for ongoing promotions at your app of choice. As the calendar gets closer and the match dates/times are more firm, sportsbooks may offer bonuses on EPL bets as they have for Bundesliga.

When Arsenal and Sheffield take their home pitches on the 17th, doing so may not be such an advantage for them. The rest of the EPL season will either bear out or debunk the wisdom of that statement.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

View all posts by Derek Helling