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Refereeing improvement spells end for home advantage in football

Higher standards in football refereeing have brought about an end of the home advantage, according to research.

Tom Webb, a sports scientist at the University of Portsmouth, has found that referees at all levels of the game in the UK are now unlikely to be moved by the cries of the home fans.

He added that refs are now "extremely fit", putting them at the centre of the action rather than 10 to 40 metres away.

He said: "We've seen a slow decline in home advantage since the end of World War Two, but it has now almost entirely vanished in UK professional football.

"Referees have never before been subject to such close scrutiny. As well as fans, there are cameras watching their every move and pundits and experts analysing their every decision. It was inevitable the standard in refereeing would rise."

He said the home advantage was due to the visiting team being tired from travelling and having to play in unfamiliar surroundings, decisions tending to favour the home side, and the crowd's effect on the players, the match officials, or both.

A rise in physical, technical and psychological training for referees has resulted in a pronounced falling away of home advantage, he said in his research published in the Soccer & Society journal.

Dr Webb said: "There's now a sustained emphasis on and support across the game for extremely high standards in refereeing.

"Physical fitness, combined with a rise in the number of coaches or mentors to help referees identify any weaknesses in their decision-making and to support their resilience, has knocked out the home advantage."

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