The seventh edition of the Indian Super League is set to begin in unusual circumstances in Goa on Friday. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging across the globe and India being hit hard, the new season will be played entirely in Goa, at three neutral venues behind closed doors.

No fans and the absence of regular home grounds mean home advantage would be non-existent in the 2020-’21 campaign.

This lack of home advantage is likely to affect different teams in different ways. Not all teams have the same level of fan support and not all teams have turned their home grounds into fortresses.

In terms of sheer fan presence, ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters, Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC lead the way, enjoying stronger support from the fans compared to other teams.

Average attendances in last 3 years

Clubs 2019-'20 2018-'19 2017-'18 Average of last three years
ATK Mohun Bagan 25,847 18,310 12,669 18,942
Jamshedpur FC 20,135 20,016 21,374 20,508
Kerala Blasters 17,515 17,125 31,763 22,134
Bengaluru FC 15,324 14,329 19053 16,235
FC Goa 13,532 16,378 17,604 15,838
Chennaiyin FC 9,869 12,181 15,538 12,529
NorthEast United 8,253 13,458 8,217 9,967
Mumbai City FC 5,240 4,981 6,449 5,556
Odisha FC 6,231 7,096 6,886 6,737
Hyderabad FC 7,299 - - 7,299

It is important to note that the stadium capacity of every club’s home ground is different but no club in the ISL has come close to completely filling the stadium, thus the absolute numbers are comparable.

Kerala Blasters enjoy the greatest support from the fans in terms of attendance figures in stadium, followed by Jamshedpur FC and ATK. The Bengaluru fans aren’t too far behind and even though not the highest in number, the West Block Blues make a lot of noise.

However, looking beyond the fan attendance figures it’s important to note how these teams have performed at their home grounds in the ISL so far in order to establish a correlation between the fan support and team performance, if any.

Performances of ISL teams at home

Teams Points per game at home Win% at home
Bengaluru FC 2.3 67
FC Goa 1.8 56
ATK Mohun Bagan 1.6 40
Chennaiyin FC 1.6 38
Mumbai City FC 1.5 48
Jamshedpur FC 1.5 41
Odisha FC 1.5 35
Kerala Blasters 1.4 31
NorthEast United 1.3 31
Hyderabad* 0.8 11
* Hyderabad has played just one season so far

The performances of ISL teams at home indicate that there isn’t any clear and direct connection between the number of fans in the stadium and the performance of the team. Kerala Blasters have the lowest win percent at home among teams who have played more than one season, despite having the best fan support.

Bengaluru FC are a team that does extremely well at home along with FC Goa, ATK and Chennaiyin with fairly good support from the audiences. The performance of Mumbai City FC at home is also quite good as they have a win percent of 48 while playing in Mumbai, the third-best tally in the league despite low fan attendances.

The points per game chart, however, shows that the teams that have done well at home are the teams that have been more successful overall in ISL. So does this mean doing well at home translates to success and will the absence of it spell trouble for these teams?

A look at the same statistics for performances away from home will provide a better picture.

Performances of ISL teams away from home

Teams Points per game away from home Win% away from home
Bengaluru FC 1.5 48
FC Goa 1.4 42
ATK Mohun Bagan 1.3 33
Chennaiyin FC 1.2 35
Mumbai City FC 1.2 29
Odisha FC 1.1 29
Jamshedpur FC 1.1 22
NorthEast United 1 23
Kerala Blasters 0.9 21
Hyderabad FC* 0.3 11
* Hyderabad has played just one season so far

The away performance table shows that the same teams that have the strongest records at home have done well away as well, thus playing down the significance of home advantage in the ISL. The best teams have got results across the board and teams that have struggled in the league’s six-year history have not faired well both home and away.

Kerala Blasters don’t have the best of home records but they have done even poorly away from home.

So will the lack of home advantage play any significant part in the way the 2020-’21 season pans out?

If the past numbers are anything to go by, it shouldn’t make a huge difference as the best teams will find a way of winning games irrespective of the exterior factors at play.

But with no home advantage whatsoever, will the gap between the stronger and weaker teams in ISL widen further?

A look at every team’s reliance on home grounds for earning points will provide a better idea.

Reliance of ISL teams in points scored at home

Teams Percentage of total points earned at home
Kerala Blasters 61
NorthEast United 60
Bengaluru FC 59
Jamshedpur FC 59
Mumbai City FC 59
Odisha FC 57
Chennaiyin FC 55
FC Goa 54
ATK Mohun Bagan 51

All ISL teams score more points at home than on the road but the three most successful sides in the ISL – ATK Mohun Bagan, Chennaiyin and FC Goa are least reliant on matches at home for securing their points.

On the other hand, Kerala Blasters, NorthEast United, Jamshedpur FC, and Mumbai City FC, who haven’t been the best performers in the league over the six years, are slightly more dependent on matches at home to secure points and may suffer a bit more due to a lack of home advantage.

But overall, the numbers point to the fact that no club is too reliant on points from home matches with the Blasters being the only team that earns more than 60% of its points at home, further establishing the fact that home advantage is ISL isn’t very significant.

With the bio-bubble in place and a lack of proper pre-season, teams are likely to experience other difficulties this season. The lack of fans isn’t an ideal development but history shows that they won’t be too badly missed.