Fans return but how much do they help?

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May 19, 2021
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    Brighton manager Graham Potter says fans 'absolutely helped' his team beat Manchester City

    It was the day so many had been waiting for, as fans returned to Premier League grounds.

    Some people were attending their first match in more than a year – and what drama they saw.

    Brighton thrilled their home spectators with a 3-2 win over champions Manchester City and Chelsea took a massive step towards Champions League qualification with a tense 2-1 victory over Leicester at Stamford Bridge.

    But not everyone went home smiling. Those at Old Trafford saw Edinson Cavani score from 40 yards but Manchester United could only draw 1-1 with Fulham, while it was not a happy return for Southampton supporters as their side lost 2-0 at home to Leeds.

    A long-awaited small step to normality, but how much does fans being there actually help their team? We got the reaction from some Premier League managers and looked at some stats.

    'The fans absolutely helped us'

    Many fans at Old Trafford held up anti-Glazer signs to protest against the club's American ownersMany fans at Old Trafford held up anti-Glazer signs to protest against the club's American owners

    Brighton boss Graham Potter saw his side fight back from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City in front of 7,495 fans.

    "The fans absolutely helped us and played a part in the game," said Potter. "We could have felt sorry for ourselves at 2-0 down but fortunately the supporters got behind us and the atmosphere lifted."

    Brighton goalscorer Dan Burn went further and added: "I don't think we would've come back without the fans. We've missed them. It's so good to have them back."

    While Brighton, Southampton and Chelsea were all able to host matches in front of 2,000 fans in December, it was the first time there had been any fans in the stands at Old Trafford since March 2020.

    "The buzz and the energy was magic, you could feel it in the warm-up and we've really missed it," said United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who felt his side may have been trying too hard to impress the 10,000 fans.

    "We played too much to entertain, making too many difficult choices," added the Norwegian.

    "We tried to do the flicks and fancy stuff, the extraordinary stuff, the things that please the fans – that's not us. We should be more efficient. No fluff. You can't have fluff in a game of football."

    Southampton lost in front of 8,000 spectators and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said: "We really tried to give them a win because they've been fantastic and supported us until the end.

    "We forgot how good it felt to have them back. It definitely gives us something we can look forward to next season."

    Chelsea also had 8,000 fans at Stamford Bridge and boss Thomas Tuchel called football "a different game" without fans, while striker Timo Werner said crowds "make it a lot of fun to play football".

    Chelsea fansChelsea gained a vital win over Leicester, with 8,000 fans cheering them on

    What do the stats say?

    Nielsen's Gracenote has analysed the difference between matches with crowds and matches without. They compared the 288 matches in the 2019-20 season before the Covid-19 shutdown with the 345 matches with no attendances in the 2020-21 campaign.

    Before Tuesday's matches they found that…

    • The percentage of home wins has dropped from last season's 44.8% with a crowd to 36.5% for the 345 matches played this season with no spectators.
    • Away wins have increased from 30.2% of last season's 288 matches with spectators to 40.9% of the 345 to be played without an attendance.
    • Home teams have scored 12% fewer goals this season in matches without spectators than they did in games with crowds in 2019-20 (1.33 goals per game this compared to 1.51 goals last campaign).
    • Away teams have scored 12% more goals. The increase here is from 1.22 goals per game to 1.36.
    • Referees are awarding more free-kicks to the away teams than the home teams. With crowds last season, home teams were awarded 0.6 free-kicks per match more than away teams. Away teams this season are awarded 0.6 free-kicks per match more than home sides.
    • Previously, home teams would be awarded fewer yellow cards than their opponents but the home clubs are now receiving more than the visiting teams.
    • With crowds, Premier League matches contained 21 dribbles per match on average. Now there are just over 18 dribbles per match with home players still having slightly more.
    • Tackling has also been on the decline with the number of tackles reducing from 33 per match last season with crowds to just over 30 in the 345 matches this term without spectators.

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    130 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • T

      Comment posted by The Spin Doctor, today at 01:51

      If a game is played and no one was there to watch it, did it really take place?313

    • B

      Comment posted by Bullid, at 23:18 18 May

      It shouldn’t be a question of whether they help or not. Football is nothing without the fans. The last 14 months of watching training matches with that embarassing taped applause is evidence enough of that.251

      • T

        Reply posted by The Dukes of Eden Hazard, today at 04:43

        "It shouldn’t be a question of whether they help or not. Football is nothing without the fans. The last 14 months of watching training matches with that embarassing taped applause is evidence enough of that."The Dukes of Eden Hazard replied: True, but it’s still interesting to look at43

      More replies (5)

    • A

      Comment posted by andrew, at 23:50 18 May

      I know I deserve a Darwin award for this but I tuned in late and spent the first 5 mins watching trying to turn the damn fake crowd noise off. Then I eventually realised it was the real thing and my word it was great to hear :)181

      • A

        Reply posted by ARod12, today at 00:03

        "I know I deserve a Darwin award for this but I tuned in late and spent the first 5 mins watching trying to turn the damn fake crowd noise off. Then I eventually realised it was the real thing and my word it was great to hear :)"ARod12 replied: Only dead people who died stupidly can get a Darwin award!92

      More replies (3)

    • G

      Comment posted by Gorton Rd, today at 09:20

      Nice to see that Manchesters finest managed to use the turnstyles to gain entry and kept off the pitch last night, why were there so many Norwich fans there though?162

    • S

      Comment posted by Some Random Bloke, today at 01:07

      City are so far ahead this season because they’ve been playing in front of their usual crowd at every venue all year.2714

      • W

        Reply posted by Wifinot, today at 08:59

        "City are so far ahead this season because they’ve been playing in front of their usual crowd at every venue all year."Wifinot replied: Wow that’s original53

      More replies (2)

    • A

      Comment posted by Andy, today at 00:07

      West ham doing well without fans!!!130

      • L

        Reply posted by Lets Agree To Disagree, today at 14:21

        "West ham doing well without fans!!!"Lets Agree To Disagree replied: I looks like when they left Upton Park they were hoping the fans would not follow :)00

    • J

      Comment posted by JBM, today at 10:14

      Anything to stop hearing the petulant,cheating,whingeing spoilt brats screaming in ‘agony’.142

    • T

      Comment posted by the boring one , at 23:18 18 May

      Can’t wait until it’s back to normal, football hasn’t been the same without fans, I’d slightly gone off it, boring without the atmosphere111

      • C

        Reply posted by Celts, today at 02:04

        "Can’t wait until it’s back to normal, football hasn’t been the same without fans, I’d slightly gone off it, boring without the atmosphere"Celts replied: It’s funny how there’s literally no such thing as “home advantage” this season. Yet you still have pundits talking about teams home forms and away forms. Or saying things like “they’ve lost at home to such and such a club” like it somehow makes the defeat worse because the game was played at home…..84

      More replies (8)

    • H

      Comment posted by hugoagogo, today at 09:26

      It also drowns out the screams of agony from players, so that’s a bonus112

    • J

      Comment posted by JogaBonito, today at 09:21

      The Southampton – Leeds game last night definitely shown the influence a home crowd has on a referee. Challenges that would in no way be a free-kick given, and nothing the other way.90

    • B

      Comment posted by Ben Karkis, at 23:43 18 May

      They Yellow Card reversal is also interesting. Referees not intimidated when no fans are around.90

      • C

        Reply posted by Celts, today at 02:06

        "They Yellow Card reversal is also interesting. Referees not intimidated when no fans are around."Celts replied: Exactly! The reason home advantage exists is because of the home crowd pressurising bottle job referees into making wrong deicisons!116

      More replies (2)

    • R

      Comment posted by Raedwulf, today at 09:22

      The stats are relevant (& I’m no fan of stats, as a rule), but I’m not sure the article actually has anything meaningful to say. The situation now is a definite improvement on no fans, but it’s also artificial – much reduced capacity & no away fans.

      Hopefully, life can return to normal next season & then it will be interesting to see whether the stats also return to “normal”!80

    • G

      Comment posted by Gary, today at 04:19

      The refs bottle it with home fans shouting at them .114

    • T

      Comment posted by The Spin Doctor, today at 01:57

      If you want proof of the importance of home fans just look at Liverpool the last 3 seasons. With fans virtually unbeatable, without fans struggling to reach the top 4.
      Home fans and players feed of each another.1710

      • C

        Reply posted by Celts, today at 02:09

        "If you want proof of the importance of home fans just look at Liverpool the last 3 seasons. With fans virtually unbeatable, without fans struggling to reach the top 4.Home fans and players feed of each another."Celts replied: I’m sure the injuries to Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip, Fabinho, Henderson, Jota, Kabak, Phillips, Thiago, Alisson, Chamberlain, Keita, Milner and Shaqiri had nothing to do with that…….1616

      More replies (4)

    • G

      Comment posted by gerrard4ever, today at 10:21

      10,000 fans at Utd did not deem to help them. Playing at home against a team that has already been relegated. Just let this season be finished and next season with fans ( hopefully ) we will be back to some normality. Football without supporters is and has been like pre season games or testomional games.60

    • J

      Comment posted by JKW, today at 09:50

      Always thought that certain refs had home bias, eg Jon Moss, Graham Scott especially, but the change in free kicks and yellow cards awarded show there definitely was bias towards the home team60

      • J

        Reply posted by james metcalfe, today at 13:21

        "Always thought that certain refs had home bias, eg Jon Moss, Graham Scott especially, but the change in free kicks and yellow cards awarded show there definitely was bias towards the home team"james metcalfe replied: probably as much about refs reacting to crowd reactions than having a bias.
        Are they being conned by the reaction of fans?20

    • T

      Comment posted by TheVandalists, today at 09:20

      What it does show is how badly the business model needs fans, without them football is a sterile and boring viewing experience.50

    • E

      Comment posted by Enjoy Yourself, today at 11:57

      Fans returned to games in other leagues as well.

      I watched Chorley U21s in a friendly against Atherton Laburnum Rovers FC last night. Don’t think it affected them that much. Was only about 30 of us there.

      I’m going again on Sunday to see them play Marshalls FC in the NorthWest U21 Dev Cup semi-final. Hopefully be a few hundred in for that.40

      • G

        Reply posted by Gersman, today at 16:33

        "Fans returned to games in other leagues as well. I watched Chorley U21s in a friendly against Atherton Laburnum Rovers FC last night. Don’t think it affected them that much. Was only about 30 of us there. I’m going again on Sunday to see them play Marshalls FC in the NorthWest U21 Dev Cup semi-final. Hopefully be a few hundred in for that."Gersman replied: I’m sure you will enjoy yourself00

    • D

      Comment posted by davethevan, today at 09:43

      Referees have to have increased training to combat unintentional bias towards the home team. The statistics regarding decisions favouring the home team with crowds should be a worry.41

      • A

        Reply posted by Arboreal man, today at 14:20

        "Referees have to have increased training to combat unintentional bias towards the home team. The statistics regarding decisions favouring the home team with crowds should be a worry."Arboreal man replied: VAR – despite its problems – should sort this.00

      More replies (2)

    • B

      Comment posted by bobby smith, today at 07:36

      Football is nothing without and it’s great to see them back only downside is they will stop putting every game on tv63

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