18 March 2015

No Place Like Home

In Episode 51 of Super League Pod we discussed the varying degree that sides in Super League enjoy a home field advantage.

This came off the back of a suggestion that Widnes enjoy a special edge over other sides because of their artificial surface, which they are more accustomed to than their opponents. It's also been said for sometime that Catalan rely on their home form to get them through to the playoffs.

These and other points of interest were addressed in the fairly basic analysis I carried out of the relative impact being at home or away has on the sides in Super League.

I looked at the last three fully completed year's regular season action so that all the teams had an equal number of home and away games to consider. It also gives a large enough sample to make some reasonable conclusions from, whilst not being too long a timespan for the range of other influencing factors to have too much impact on these conclusions. The analysis therefore includes the now relegated London and Bradford sides along with the 12 Super League clubs.

Some of the outcomes are surprising, some are what we might expect. Here is a table showing my findings. It gives all the key numbers, the rank of each team in those numbers and a bit of a breakdown on what the numbers show.

I'll pick out the headlines, so I'll be talking about the right hand side on the table above. Home advantage has had the biggest impact on the fortunes of the Castleford Tigers between 2012 and 2014. Their boost from the home surroundings was narrowly higher than the Catalan Dragons, who as expected ranked high. These were the only two teams who were twice as likely to win at home than away from home. In third, not far behind, came Hull FC with Widnes ranking fourth, 95% more likely to win at home rather than away from home. 

St Helens saw a remarkably small change between home and away success. Wigan were similarly less affected than most by their surroundings with the second smallest change between home and away win percentage. Leeds were the closest to an average performer in this field with their 7th ranked 41.5% percentage change being closest to the league win-percent averages change of 42.7%.

In real terms, Catalan saw the biggest absolute difference between their home win percent and away win percent. Hull FC, Castleford and Widnes still made up the top four, but in a different order than percentage change. This is mostly because Catalan have been more successful overall during the last three seasons than the other three, who were less consistent.

Similarly and unsurprisingly again, St Helens and Wigan were pretty consistent home and away, as were Bradford Bulls - consistently bad you could argue, but there was a playoff performing team in that stretch (albeit missing out due to points deductions).

The other margin to look at is the points difference. Again, it isn't a surprise that we have the same candidates at the top and bottom of the rankings. The points swing in their favour at home compared to away is over 20 points per game for Widnes and Catalan, emphasising how much of a difference to these sides it makes to play at home rather than away. Castleford and Hull FC round out the top four, with Huddersfield not far behind in 5th. 

Where they play again has little impact on the points Wigan can post - they also had the best total points difference at home and away from home, twice as big an away margin than any other side.

One take away that is clear is home field definitely matters in Super League. All the teams are better at home than they are away from home. On average, playing at home sees your win success be 17.6% higher than your success away and being at home is worth a 9 point start.

As always, thanks for reading, I hope you found it interesting. Don't forget to listen in to our shows, all the useful links are in the sidebar.