(Reuters) - Relegation-threatened Premier League clubs who were vehemently against playing at neutral venues may be looking nervously at the German Bundesliga after 56 matches in empty stadiums produced only 12 home wins.
The Premier League will return on Wednesday after a three-month hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and data produced by Gracenote from Germany’s “ghost games” shows a radical shift where home advantage has been wiped out in empty stadiums.
Since the league restarted last month, home wins have plummeted from 43% with fans in attendance earlier in the season to 21% behind closed doors.
Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham United and Watford - all within two points of the Premier League relegation zone - along with 19th-placed Aston Villa agreed that resuming the season at neutral venues would affect the integrity of the competition.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said neutral venues could be particularly harsh for his club, who have collected 17 of their 25 points at Villa Park.
“When you say to any club, ‘We want you to agree to a bunch of rule changes that may make it more likely that you get relegated’,” Purslow had told talkSPORT last month.
“They’re not thinking about TV money, they’re thinking: ‘My goodness, am I going to agree to something that results in me being relegated and losing 200 million pounds ($251.26 million)?’”
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber was also adamant that they host games at the Amex Stadium, given their remaining five home games include visits from four of the traditional ‘Big Six’ - Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal.
But without the hostility of the home crowd, playing away from home may not be a deal breaker after all.
Brighton manager Graham Potter echoed a similar sentiment, adding that the quality of football on the pitch would ultimately decide the club’s top-flight future.
“As an away team it’s difficult when there’s 30, 40, 50, 60,000 people at a game - that’s normal,” he was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“But it’s not there, we haven’t got the crowd and you just have to play football as well as you can. That’s the challenge now.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge