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Closed Doors Matches – Does The Lockdown Affect Sports Betting?

Closed Doors Matches – Does The Lockdown Effect Sports Betting?

The lockdown has had an impact on every part of our day to day lives, Sport and Sports Betting are no exception. So how does it affect the sports themselves, our betting habits, and the bookmakers’ reactions?

We all know about the home ground advantage. It affects odds and it affects our betting and probabilities across almost all sports.

But what is it that really sways the odds and gives home teams an advantage? Is it the advantage of not needing to travel, the familiar stadium or is it the crowd that has the biggest impact?

Upfront I would guess that it is a combination of all 3, but let’s delve deeper!


How Big Is A Regular Home Team Advantage?

For reference we are going to use football, football fans have a reputation for passion and playing a very loud and active role in willing their teams to victory.

If we take a look at the top five football leagues we can see a considerable home-field advantage in the 2018/19 seasons

Beyond any doubt, there is a clear and significant advantage of playing at your home ground, with your fans, in your city.

Lockdown Ghost Games, A Small Sample

The Bundesliga was the first of the big five leagues to relaunch their season without crowds. What we have from that is a small sample of 83 closed doors matches and 223 with crowds, from this season pre lockdown, not enough to draw any conclusions but we can start to build a picture.

Data compiled by Graceland indicates that In the 223 games in 2019/20 with crowds the home team won 43%. In the 83 games since without crowds, the home team has won just 31%, a full 12% drop off. Home Teams are also conceding 15% more free kicks.

This included a rolling stretch of 12 wins from 56 home games at one point, the lowest home win percentage over a comparable sample size in over 10 years, and the second-lowest ever in the league’s 58 season history.

Now before you start throwing all your money at the away team, take a second. 83 games are nowhere near enough to build a statistically sound betting strategy.

We have also been able to gather some data on the other big leagues, and well… the results were mixed.

La Liga has seen a 5.5% drop off in home wins in their 87 games since lockdown, Serie A has seen an insignificant drop of 0.6% in their 63 games back, and the Premier League saw home teams winning 3.5% MORE post lockdown with their 58 games after lockdown.

Our samples are too small and our results are too mixed, for now.

So what else do we have..?

A Pre COVID Study

In the Reading University study ‘Echoes: what happens when football is played behind closed doors?’ the writers brought together multiple studies to address both the match results and referee actions.

The analysis encompassed multiple levels of French and Italian football as well as UEFA competitions from the 2002/03 season through to 2020, just before lockdown. A total of 33,796 games were played, of which 160 were behind closed doors.

The results seemed clear, with fans the home team won 46% of matches and behind closed doors a large drop down to 36%.

But again, no. Put those wallets away. The authors of this study insist that when team quality was taken into account for these 160 games, the effect was reduced down to the point of not being statistically significant.

However, there was one piece of useful information that the study found to be statistically significant. The referees’ willingness to give out yellow cards. Over the large sample of games with crowds, there was found to be a 0.4 higher average of yellow cards given to away teams. In the closed-door games that 0.4 was wiped out completely and the cards given were even.

This trend held strong among all major subsets and was deemed statistically significant by the authors. Wooohoooo. We’ve got something!

But why? We can’t know exactly but general thought suggests that the home crowds presence and noise can influence a referee to side with the majority. Human nature at work. Understandable but not ideal.

Betting On Closed Doors Matches

Okay! Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. How can we take advantage of all this data?

Uhh, I don’t know. Sorry…

The major benchmark bookmakers like Pinnacle and Bet365 still have faith in the home team advantage and set the odds accordingly. So if we could extrapolate some statistically significant changes, we could likely extract value from the opening odds, before the bookmakers catch up.

The other thing to remember is that the bettors set the closing odds, the odds represent what the people think they should represent.

As bettors, we just don’t have the information to build a betting strategy around these closed doors matches.. yet.

With many other sports and leagues considering and oftentimes forced to play to spectator-less stadiums, the stats will catch up. We will be here to give you the latest, subscribe to stay up to date!

Let us know if you have any thoughts on the trends of closed doors matches, maybe you’ve even found some betting opportunities we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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