Answer by Umair Mirxa:
There are 3 major factors which provide the home side an advantage in football:
1. The Fans
Football fans play a massive role in most football matches. They create an atmosphere in which the home players thrive, whereas the visiting players are intimidated, thus affecting the performance of both teams.
You will notice how, in most matches, certain opposition players are booed by the home crowd every time they receive the ball, which can be incredibly annoying and distracting, and leads to misplaced shots and passes, particularly for the more inexperienced players who have not yet become used to hostile away crowds.
On the other hand, home players are near constantly cheered, often with songs of praise, for either the individual player or for the club. Supporters often come up with chants for the club’s best players, and use them during matches to encourage their stars. Could you imagine the motivation you get when thousands of people cheer you on? Would you not want to destroy the opposition, and please those cheering masses?
Most significantly, in my opinion, the atmosphere inside a football stadium can go from absolutely raucous to utterly quiet in a matter of seconds if possession switches from the home side to the opposition. Any visiting player on the ball can easily be distracted into making mistakes due to the sudden hush.
2. The Confidence
Football teams are often significantly more confident playing at home, in large part due to the fans [as discussed in point 1], but there are other factors involved.
Consider this: if a player plays in all 38 matches in a league season, he will have played 19 times at the home stadium, and only once each at 19 other stadiums. He is then more familiar, and as a result, more comfortable at the home stadium than anywhere else.
Furthermore, the pitch in each stadium is different to the rest – sometimes subtly, sometimes significantly. It may be larger at home and smaller away, or faster at home and slower away, or dry at home and wet away. All of these factors contribute to a player’s familiarity with home conditions, breeding the confidence which results in home advantage.
3. The Pitch
It may not always be obvious, but football pitches are as varied in different stadia as they are in cricket. The Wembley stadium takes a toll on players’ legs, whereas The Emirates is a pleasure to play upon. Stamford Bridge is different compared to Old Trafford, as is Anfield, and so on.
The home team is obviously familiar with the pitch, and comfortable playing on it, while the visiting team has to adjust, especially as a team may only visit a given away stadium once a season.
The weather can often play a role in home advantage, though not often. Mario Balotelli recently complained of how cold it is in the Northeast after a game away at Sunderland. The cold, the heat, the rain, or the snow – these can often impact a team’s performance at an away stadium, providing advantage to the home team.