Home Advantage or Disadvantage…
From Rugby World reader, Larissa Falls
With the Guinness Premiership as closely fought out as ever before (only 9 points separate the top 5 teams and 10 the bottom 7), winning at home is imperative.
Sunday however saw Harlequins relocate one of its home fixtures from The Stoop to Twickenham; where a record 76, 716 crowd witnessed London’s ‘Big Game 2.’ A draw card and Christmas spectacle beneficial for the games supporter growth and development, but a scenario that made me ponder hindsight and the (possible) ramifications for Quins.
A win against Wasps may still have kept Quins occupying 6th spot, but would have further anchored their position whilst breathing heavily down the necks of the top 5 sides. Instead of narrowing the margin between themselves and 5th placed Wasps to only 4, they are now 7 points adrift, with a gap that could extend out to 11 (London have one game still in hand).
Had John Kingston’s side played at The Stoop, could the match result have read in his favour? Whilst we’ll never know, I believe it’s worth considering.
You only need to look at the emphasis we place on the home side- betting odds, tipping, expectations- to acknowledge how much of an impact home ground advantage can have on the home team.
The last two Guinness Premiership champions (Wasps and Leicester) notched 8 and 10 (out of 11) home wins respectively throughout the regular season; showing the nature at which sides pride themselves and their trophy aspirations on home form.
Whilst I fully endorse the idea and application of taking premiership games to larger stadiums in an effort to expand the games image and interest, I’m still unsure of its consequences on the ‘home side.’
It may be hard to imagine that certain teams (mainly those in the north where football is largely the be-all and end-all), will be able to adequate fill huge venues. The London Double Header already costs two teams one home game for the season (one less than the other 10 clubs), so wouldn’t it be best for all sides to take the game to another venue, or even, another area. A venture worthwhile if we’re to see equality in regards to home advantage.
Season’s will come and go before such a thought may even arise, but at the moment we must applaud the clubs (eg. Saracens and Harlequins) who are willing to put the greater interests of the game before their own; selfless…but at present, possibly costly.