How does the crowd impact player performance?

If there’s one thing that defines a football match (other than who wins of course), it’s the roar of the crowd.

You can’t escape the team chants, the elated shrieks when someone scores, and the sharp intakes of breath when it doesn’t quite go to plan.

But what impact does the size of the crowd, and the raucous noise they make, have on the players? In some sports, such as tennis, it’s strictly forbidden to make ‘distracting’ noises during play, as it’s thought to put the players off their game. However in football, it’s a free for all.

BBC Bitesize spoke to some football pros to get their thoughts.

Alex Scott and others break down how they feel about loud crowds.

Most players, like Alex Scott, said they absolutely loved the noise; knowing that your fans were there in force and supporting you made it really enjoyable for them.

Journalist Jo Currie said that “there’s nothing worse than empty stadium”, which might even be more distracting for the players.

But surely the shouts would at least catch your attention? Not for Gemma Fay and Sue Smith, who managed to completely blank it out. Not on purpose though - they put it down to the sheer amount of concentration you have to have on the game at hand. Gemma said “I didn’t really hear it - I was so focussed on what I was doing.”

Sue was in complete agreement, but said the only times it might cut through is during the big moments, like when you scored a goal, and it can make you feel amazing. She also mentioned that it can be quite helpful when you’ve conceded a goal, and need a bit of a pick-me-up: “if you’ve gone behind and you’re thinking right I need a little bit more… sometimes that crowd can just lift you.”

'Home advantage'

So to them, a big and noise crowd is not only preferable, but can even improve their game. But is there any science to back this up?

A study was conducted in 2014 by the University of Naples that concluded it might actually be the case. They looked at a number of games where both teams share the same stadium - this effectively got rid of the home advantage, as the away team wouldn't have to travel or play on a different pitch. They then measured the impact bigger crowds for either side had on their performance at these derbies.

It found that, at games where a side had larger support out in force for them, that team would score around 0.45 more goals than their opponents, and have a higher probability of winning outright. It also noted that the ref would be more likely to decide in a team’s favour if their supporting crowd was larger and noisier.

So that settles it then - next time you see your favourite team play, shout as loud as you can!

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