Home ground advantage in the AFL Grand Final

2013aflgrandfinalHow much of a home ground advantage is there in an AFL Grand Final?

The reason why I ask is because the MCG is a happy hunting ground for Hawthorn whilst Fremantle have historically struggled there. The Hawks have won 8 of their last 10 matches on the MCG, as compared to Fremantle who have only won 3 of their last 15 matches at the venue.

But what makes a home ground advantage?

Well there has been a lot of research into this area. And whilst some might be a psychological advantage, there is also a degree of travel fatigue, as well as playing on a slightly different surface with different dimensions and altitudes.

But probably the biggest cause of home ground advantage would have to be crowd support. Fremantle showed this in their last match against Sydney last week. The crowd would have definitely spurred on a team. Furthermore, the umpires are easily biased by crowd support. Take a look at the free kick tally for west Australian teams at home against teams that travel interstate vs the opposite in Melbourne.

But is the grand final in AFL as crowd biased as a normal home and away match? No. Almost half the ground is made up of MCC and AFL memberships, which tend to be more unbiased to any team. A lot greater percentage of these members will be turning up to watch the ultimate game of the year and not shouting out their teams of choice. Then there are the corporates, who likewise are would neither support one team over the other.

As for the two teams playing. Unlike any other game, they are allocated equal amount of seats per team, and whilst any seats left over are more likely to be grabbed by a Victorian team, the difference in crowd support between both teams one would think is minimal.

From a personal experience, I thought there were more Sydney supporters at last years grand final than Hawthorn supporters.

But let’s look at the stats and see what they say. Since 1995 there have been 8 occasions where a Melbourne based team was playing an interstate team in the grand final. Of these only on two occasions have the Melbourne side won: in 2007 where Geelong thrashed Port Adelaide by 119 points, and in 1996 where North Melbourne defeated Sydney by 43 points. Three premierships from Brisbane, Two from Adelaide and one from Sydney make up the numbers.

If you look at all those matches, then my model which includes a home ground interstate travel factor in it, has the Melbourne based team to on average win by 13.3 points. But on those eight occasions since 1995, the average margin of victory for the Melbourne minus the margin of the interstate team is 0.125. Almost exactly zero. Perhaps this if anything is a good reason to believe that there is no home ground advantage in the AFL grand final.

Although this year, being a Hawthorn supporter, I wish there was.

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