Home Advantage Study shows significant benefits for host nationSubscribe
Mairi Irvine 12 January 2009
The significance of ‘home advantage’ at World and European Championships* has been addressed for the first time in a study which highlights that host countries receive an average performance boost of 25% in their results.
‘Home advantage’ has often been cited as a performance boosting factor in the sporting world, with the familiarity of venues and support of a rousing home crowd often credited as pushing an athlete to a personal best or medal-winning performance. It is a concept that is intuitively understood and accepted, but until now, little or no work existed to evidence any kind of correlation at major single-sport international championships.
The study, commissioned by UK Sport, analysed historical results from the World Championships of 14 Olympic sports, in addition to European Championships from three of these sports. The headline figure of a 25% increase** in performance for the host nation has been determined after studying 10,000 ‘top eight’ placings across 99 major events around the world and using a points system to provide a standardised measure of the results.
To put this into context, the results show that the host countries identified in this study achieved an average 6% share of the points available at major events that they were not hosting – but an average 7.5% share when competing at home. At a World Swimming Championships, for example, this scale of improvement could, according to the scoring system used, equate to a variety of different outcomes, including two completely additional gold medals or seven increases from sixth place to bronze medal, or 23 increases of one place, for example, from fifth to fourth.
John Steele, UK Sport’s Chief Executive, said: “We are constantly looking for the edge over our rivals and these preliminary results suggest that there is indeed a quantifiable link between hosting events and improving performance.
“For example, it is clear that we have the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage through further targeted investment in major events. In an environment where medals are decided by increasingly smaller margins, the potential to achieve such a marked improvement in elite performance is highly significant.
UK Sport’s Events team co-ordinate the bidding and staging of major international sporting events on home soil through the Lottery funded World Class Events Programme and are extremely interested in the results of the study.
Simon Morton, UK Sport’s Acting Senior Events Consultant, explains its importance: “Some £15 million is being invested into UK hosted events between 2009 and 2012, with 24 World Championships and 15 European Championships targeted. Whilst we consider the broader impact issues of hosting events, such as maximising sporting, social, cultural and economic benefits, our current focus ahead of 2012 is to secure events based on their likely performance impact.
“It is exciting to now look at getting underneath these figures to examine the main factors that drive home advantage – and this will form the basis of the next stage of our study. We can’t just take the home advantage effect for granted, we need to understand the importance and causal links of variables such as travel time, familiarity and the home crowd.”
The number of events being held in the UK through the support of the World Class Events Programme has grown enormously since the announcement in 2005 that London would host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2008, UK Sport has supported some 17 events, including a record six World Championships - indeed between 2007 and 2012, 150 major international events have been targeted. This compares to 36 events staged in the 2001-2006 period.
Morton continues: “The number of events that the UK has been able to host in recent years has significantly increased which is a testament to the partnership approach between national governing bodies of sport, city councils and regional bodies.”
In addition, hosting events on home soil provides opportunities for capacity building and knowledge transfer to ensure that the UK has the right quantity and quality of personnel required to deliver successful Games in both London in 2012 and two years later at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Morton concludes: “Whilst we believe this home advantage report is the most in-depth research of single-sport competition to date, there is still some work to do to get underneath these figures and to examine the qualitative variables that drive home advantage. This will allow us to begin to maximise the performance benefits of hosting events on home soil.”
* Please note the data gathered was from single sport European and World Championships; data from multi-sport environments such as the Commonwealth or Olympic Games were not involved in this exercise.
**This figure is the average increase in performance after excluding the top two and bottom two sports – ie excluding the extreme outliers.