How a Soccer Team’s Fans Can Impact the Match


If you’ve never witnessed a passionate home soccer crowd in all their glory, you’re missing out. In stadiums all over the globe, but particularly in Europe, soccer attracts some of the staunchest, involved fans in all of sports. They have organized chants and songs, they wave enormous flags, and they throw smoke bombs and flares regularly.

When looking at home field advantage in soccer, the home team wins roughly 60% of the time, a number that stays relatively consistent from year to year. So, what then is responsible for this elevated probability of winning? Does the crowd involvement play a role in the outcome of the matches? If so, why would that be?

Throughout the years I’ve paid attention to the rivalry between the United States’ and Mexican national teams. Players have often lamented having to play at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, one of the most intimidating playing grounds of them all. Between the constant taunting, anti-American imagery throughout the stadium, and non-stop rain of projectiles (including a frequent Azteca favorite, urine bombs) being thrown at the away team, the atmosphere clearly has an effect on the US team’s performance.

I’ve decided to research the various stadium factors believed to be tied to player performances in soccer. What I’ve found was numerous psychological phenomenon at play. There’s more to home-field advantage than waking up in one’s own bed or playing in a familiar city. Many of the impacts a crowd has on a match involve tribal social reactions in both the players and the officials.

Once you understand the effect a crowd may have on a match, you’d be smart to consider these variables when placing your sports bets. Researching a team’s home vs. away records, the intensity of a club’s fandom, and the type of stadium they play in all become valuable information for your handicapping. The trick is just to know how and when to apply this knowledge.

How Soccer Fans Impact Match Results

There are a number of different phenomenon at play when a rowdy crowd loudly roots for the home squad. Athletes on the side being cheered can receive a boost from the immense outpouring of support and adoration. Conversely, away players are frequently the victim of horrific insults, blatant racism, and threats of violence, all of which can understandably give a player the jitters as well.

Educated fans that know how to adjust their volume based on the situation can become quite the benefit for their beloved side. Crowds will fall silent when their own team prepares for a penalty kick, allowing him to focus without distraction. But when it’s time for the other squad to kick, you can expect the highest decibel levels of the day in addition to well-placed visual disturbances. Let’s look at some of the specific reasons a raucous stadium full of fans plays such a vital role in match results.

Officiating Bias

In soccer, the referee the ability to significantly influence the outcome of a game. They control the physicality of the game with free kicks and bookings and get to determine the severity of penalties. An official with a short fuse that’s quick to pull his yellow cards can swing the contest in either side’s favor with just a few biased calls.

Thomas J. Dohmen, a researcher, studying home field advantage on behalf of the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany, analyzed the effect home crowds had on officiating. What was determined, is that referees subconsciously treat the home team more favorably than their counterparts. Its human nature to want to avoid being the subject of jeers and boos from tens of thousands of people, just as it’s reasonable to desire the crowd’s approval and support.

What the research study determined is that officials are inherently biased by the crowd noise. None of the refs enter the game with the intention of assisting one side more than the other, in fact, this is not a conscious decision at all. Regardless, this is one seriously impactful way home supporters play a role in winning soccer games.

Social Facilitation

It may feel like we live in the future now with all of our gadgets and technology, but human beings are still mostly a tribal creature. The entire root of sports fandom can be traced to our desire to be part of a tribe, make it part of our identity, and share in their triumphs and letdowns. It’s where the pride in teams comes from despite the fact that they mostly have nothing to do with you and are full of athletes that don’t know or care that you exist. It’s an almost entirely one-way relationship, and yet we can’t get enough.

Well, our tribal origins play a more significant role in the game beyond merely making sports appealing.


A stadium full of positive energy and support can actually empower and motivate players for the home team.

The feeling of having a united cause and being backed up by thousands of attendees gives players a significant boost, allowing them to play through pain, get in “the zone” easier, and dig a little deeper with regards to effort.

The crowd noise and chanting creates a positive feedback loop. They get the home side fired up to begin the game, the team starts strong, and the sound gets louder in appreciation. All of these positive affirmations continue to inspire the home team which performs at the highest levels in search of more reactions.

Noise & Distraction

The same tribal mechanism is at work for the away team as well, just in reverse. No matter how experienced or confident a player is, having enormous crowds of people insulting and attacking you will still get in your head. Logically, they know it’s not personal and that the crowd shouldn’t really matter, but the effect on the subconscious mind is still present.

Our brains are trained to seek out pleasure or rewards and avoid discomfort and pain. So, even players that don’t consciously let the supporters bother them will be affected in some way. Their performance will decrease naturally in avoidance of loud jeers and negativity.

Now, it’s important to clarify that the power the crowd has over the athletes is not always significant. A player’s talent may overcome whatever advantage is created by the raving fans, or the subconscious impact may never show up in a meaningful way. It’s still uncomfortable for the brain on a deeper level, but the disapproval doesn’t always manifest itself as terrible play.

The home stadium’s audience may also act as a distraction. Hooligans and staunch supporters frequently wear the same colors in entire sections, wave gigantic flags, hold up signs, and throw flares and smoke bombs onto the pitch. Utilized correctly, the attendees may disrupt a penalty or corner kick by using visual effects and creating disturbances in an away player’s field of vision. They only have to lose focus for a fraction of a second to massively alter a shot.

Intimidation, Embarrassment & Morale

As I mentioned previously, some environments significantly intimidate visiting players and drain their morale. Being booed by the home supporters is to be expected, but once they start launching bags of bodily fluids, batteries, and cruel personal insults the away side begins to feel frustration. It’s difficult not to react to an unruly mob behaving in ways you think are unnecessary or even uncivilized.

The slightest change in demeanor as a reaction to fans will also show itself in athletic performance. An angry, insulted player may begin to play more reckless or aggressive in some effort to “show them.” But this is counterproductive in the end, as it increases the chance of bookings and gives the home squad possession of the ball and more free kicks.

A crowd’s response to the action on the field also gets into the player’s heads. Soccer is a game that requires immense skill and technique, but even the most talented athletes have the occasional blooper or miscue. When these mistakes happen, an eruption of laughter and taunting is registered by the offending party. It adds pressure not to repeat the same mistake again, which is a thought process that is more likely to breed additional errors.

The human brain doesn’t have the ability to “not” or “don’t.” What this means, is if you say to yourself “don’t miss,” your mind processes the word miss and visualizes it giving you the opposite of the intended effect. Rather than thinking “don’t miss,” which will make you miss, you have to think “make this shot” for positive results. A stadium full of antagonists will highlight your errors, making players more likely to obsess over avoiding additional mistakes rather than creating quality soccer.

Putting this Information to Work

So, we know that home field advantage is a real thing and that the supporters play a role in how it works.

Now, what do we do with this information?

Home teams still only win 60% of the time, and that is always already factored into the odds, so there’s no benefit to just hammering home teams all the time.

Crowd noise is just one of many variables that influence the outcome of the game, so the trick is knowing just how much to prioritize home field advantage on a case-by-case basis. There are a few things worth digging up when deciding how much to consider the home crowd. Once you’ve finished this quick research, you’ll have a better idea of whether the fans will even matter.

Home and Away Records

First, the reasonable research to do is on both teams’ home and away records. We know that on average, home teams win 60% of the time. So, when examining both teams wins and losses pay attention to how much they deviate from the norm, if they do at all.

For Example

A team with a significantly higher home winning percentage, but an average away record is clearly benefiting from a meaningful home field advantage.

For the away team, their record on the road is the most crucial knowledge to gain. If a group is above average on the road, you may not want to factor in the home field too much in your handicapping. Some squads relish the villain role and find motivation in the negative atmosphere. The thought of spoiling the crowd’s day outweighs the subconscious effect. You’ll get some idea of how much clubs are affected by location by looking at this easy-to-find home/away data.

Consider Stadium Atmosphere

So, you’ve looked at both teams’ records in both hostile environments and familiar territory, but there’s no significant difference with which to work. Next, you might need to do some Google searching and YouTube watching to get a feel for the atmosphere at the host arena. Some cities just aren’t as rowdy, or their team prices out the loudest fans with results in a stadium full of polite, docile, blue-bloods.

On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, Estadio Azteca is as uncomfortable for opposing fans and player as humanly possible. It has an international reputation for being a nightmare to play in as a foreigner. So, in that case, the Mexican national team has a legitimate advantage when playing at home.

Before putting too much stock into the home and away results, find out what to expect from the home crowd. If it’s a calm, quiet atmosphere without much chaos, you might not want to worry about the visiting team’s previous performances on the road. Without a frenzied mob to distract them, they’ll have nothing to worry about. Likewise, the home team won’t be enjoying that performance boost driven by the supporter’s enthusiasm.

Analyze Likely Importance of Referees

We know for a fact that rowdy stadiums full of people play a role in deciding how the officials call the game. But the degree in which officiating will matter depends on the two sides playing and the strategies and tactics they typically employ. If the game is expected to be physical, the refs will be heavily involved, which benefits the home team. But if both squads are finesse passing and ball possession teams, the referees won’t get as many opportunities to make their mark.

To break down how involved the officials can expect to be, you’ll need to be knowledgeable about both clubs and soccer tactics. If you have a proper understanding of how they like to play and how their styles will clash, you can make an educated decision regarding the impact of home-field advantage through referee bias.

The Wrap Up

Soccer is the most popular sport in the entire world. With that distinction also comes legions of rabid, yet adoring, supporters all doing their best to will their team to victory. As it turns out, the mobs of fans that attend games and create the atmosphere in the stadium are taking part in the competition after all. In fact, they’re influencing the performance of both the players on either side as well as the officials controlling the game.

Most of the impact that supporters have on the game is subconscious. Athletes playing in their home stadium feel emboldened and motivated by the encouragement and positivity of their fans. Meanwhile, the team on the other side of the pitch is forced to deal with negative enforcement and the desire to avoid mistakes that will draw the ire of the crowd. Both of these thought processes play a part in deciding the outcome of the game, with the severity of the impact being dependent upon additional factors.

Understanding why a team’s supporters affect the performance on the field is one of the first steps in betting on soccer. Once you are aware of the psychology at play, you know what to look for and which stadiums present the most significant challenges, and which won’t make a difference. That’s valuable knowledge to have so that you know whether to prioritize home and away records when handicapping a match. Sure, it’s only one piece of a much larger puzzle, but it’s something, and you can never have too much data.

Petko Stoyanov
Get in touch with Petko
About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.