No place like home! - Coaches fuel debate about local home field advantage
Three coaches have voiced opposing views on whether playing at home gives teams a true advantage in local football.
Opinion has been split amongst fans and analysts alike, regarding how important it is that teams have an established residence. Some football enthusiasts believe that there are teams who consistently struggle because they do not have a permanent home venue. Others say that it really does not matter since many of the local parks have similarly poor playing surfaces and facilities to entertain supporters.
Boys' Town FC have not played at their Collie Smith Drive field in the last three seasons of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) because of issues with the grass on the surface. In that time, all their home games in the league have been at the Barbican Field and the team, which originated in Trench Town, has battled relegation in each of those seasons. However, the team's head coach Andrew Price, who was very abrupt about the issue, told Star Sports that he does not believe this is a strong enough reason for the team's consistent struggles.
"Home field isn't the problem," he said. "A lot of other teams in the league don't have a home and are doing well. I don't really feel like speaking about it right now though."
Jerome Waite, head coach of defending Red Stripe Premier League champions Arnett Gardens, disagrees.
"It's a disadvantage for them," he said. "A lot of those players are community based and they have been playing for many years and given that they don't have their home crowd behind them is a factor."
Arnett have what many argue to be the most passionate fans in the league. Many say that their stadium, the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex is a hard place for visiting teams to get a favourable result because of this. The Junglists had a two game home stadium ban at the start of last season's league. The team played those two fixtures at the Drax Hall Sports Complex in St Ann, winning both games in the process. However, Waite said that home field advantage is very important to his team's results.
"Playing at home is always a positive," he said. "It's left to the twelvth man, which is the supporters and unlike the other teams, Arnett Gardens is one of the fortunate ones to have a massive support base. So it's a thing that will always be an advantage for us."
Since being promoted to the Red Stripe Premier League in 2015, Portmore United have not played any games at the Ferdie Neita Sports Complex. Instead, they have played their home matches at both the Juici Patties Park and the Spanish Town Prison Oval. Not only have they won the preliminary round of the RSPL in the 2015/16 season but have been to the last two grand finals.
Portmore's head coach Shavar Thomas said that being at home does matter, for some teams in the RSPL, including Arnett. However, he said that Portmore's consistency stems mainly from hard work.
"Home field does matter, especially when you're playing in the tougher places like Arnett, Tivoli and Waterhouse. Those teams' fans definitely give them the impetuous and boost to go and perform. In those places, the players don't need any other motivation but their fans. You're behind the eight ball when you go to those places but if you go out there and show confidence, grit and grime, you'll come out with a positive result.
"Why we do well is the confidence in our work. Every day our players come and work hard. Once you work hard and have confidence in your work, it doesn't matter where you go."