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The Away Day Blues

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During the 1992-93 season the defending Champions, Leeds United, went through a without winning away from home.  But that is generally seen as a rare event in the Premier League. Take a look at this table of a season which has just finished.

Nigerian Premier League
Nigerian Premier League
Some of you may have seen this already as an article about it appeared in The Guardian.  It is the Nigerian Premier League and it is certainly a strange league.  If you look closer at the table and especially at the away record, it becomes clear there is something extremely wrong going on here.

Only one team won more than 2 away games.  Only 4 clubs won more than one away match and 7 clubs didn’t win an away match all season.  One of the most unbelievable records is with a club called Gombe United.  They dropped just 2pts from their 19 home matches, scoring 34 goals and conceding just 7.  Yet they lost every single one of their away games, scoring just 4 times and conceding an amazing 39 goals.  What could possibly have gone so wrong whenever they played away compared to their home form?

Kaduna United were a similar example where they won 17 of their home games, drawing the other two and also conceding just 4 goals.  Yet whenever they were away from home they conceded a total of 41 goals, losing all 19 of their away games.  All this against opponents they had little trouble against at home.

The Champions, Kano Pillars, who have just won back-to-back titles, lost an incredible 15 times away from home.  Second placed, Enyimba, didn’t even concede a goal at home yet could only pick up 9pts on the road.

The bottom club, Shooting Stars, were only beaten once at home.  There cannot be too many clubs around the world who have been relegated despite only losing one home match all season.  Only four clubs scored more goals at home than they did, yet away from home they could only find the net 6 times.

Apparently, the reasons behind all this is a combination of poor travelling conditions leaving away sides tired and ill-prepared on matchday, corruption and intimidation of referees and also violence and threatening behaviour from home fans.  The issue of travel problems was highlighted in several games having to be postponed as teams failed to arrive.  You would have thought the Nigerian Football Association could do something about the last two points, but are probably powerless to be able to improve the travel conditions throughout the country.

Referees not only have to contend with angry and aggressive supporters but they also have to contend with many of the home clubs insisting their earnings are ‘performance-related’. In a weird concept, the League does not pay the referees, the home club does.  This seems to lead to a completely corrupt system of intimidation and undue influence.

But this season is not the exception as last season’s League table has 9 clubs unbeaten at home and only the Champions, Kano Pillars, managed a points tally from their away games going into double figures.  In fact you have to go back to 2011 to find a side winning more than 3 away games in a season.  Dolphins won the League that year but still managed to find themselves on the losing side 11 times when they only dropped 2pts at home.  Sunshine Stars beat every single team which came to their home that season, yet remarkably all but three of those sides avoided a ‘double’ when it came to hosting the Stars.

This last season’s tally of just 18 away wins in the League is an improvement on 2012 when only 14 of the 380 matches resulted in victory for the away side.  To give you some idea of a comparison, in the Premier League last season 106 matches ended in an away win.  Even in a League such as MLS where travelling involves thousands of miles, there were 77 away wins last season from fewer matches.

Going back to the table above, Heartland (12th) won 2 away games this season.  Those are the first matches they’d won away from home since 2009, yet such is the ridiculous nature of the league they’ve never been in any danger of relegation.

It is a surprise the betting companies haven’t woken up to the potential as the odds on an away win must be pretty long and the opportunity to influence proceedings must be quite high, but of course normally you’d feel sorry for the fans in this situation but if they’re having an effect on the results then perhaps they’ve got the league they deserve.