The on-going Covid-19 pandemic has given many researchers the chance to examine the impact that no supporters has had on a variety of sports and outcomes. Some of the earliest of this work is now being published.
As the most recent post on this site noted, Economic Letters carried a piece by Marek Endrich and Tobias Gesche which examined foul play and referee biases. European Sport Management Quarterly have now published a case study on the demand for European football by James Reade and Carl Singleton.
These contributions add to a rich literature examining the effects of crowd noise (or lack-there-of) and psychological effects such as home advantage, travel, etc. on issues such as referee decision making and foul play. While the results vary there is a general acceptance that crowds matter and can influence players and referees during the course of a game. The removal of fans has led to a notable increase in the number of away wins and a less variation in the number of cautions given to home and away teams.
Enter Gaelic Games.
Over the course of the next 14 days Ireland's two biggest sporting spectacles will take place. The All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals will be staged at an empty Croke Park at a very untraditional time of the year (normally August/September).
The hurling final will see Limerick play Waterford, while the football final pits Dublin against Mayo. Dublin are attempting to win a record 6th football title in a row, while Limerick were hurling champions in 2018, bridging a gap back to 1973. Waterford and Mayo on the other hand are in different positions. Waterford have not won hurling's Liam McCarthy Cup since 1959. Mayo's drought goes back even longer and they have not won football's Sam Maguire Cup since 1951.
While both Waterford and Mayo are outsiders in their respective finals, I believe the absence of spectators will be an advantage. The research in this area is yet to consider the psychological impact that repeated failure can have on "getting over the line". In the case of Waterford, this will be their 4th attempt to win a final since 1959. Mayo have lost a remarkable 9 finals since they last won in 1951. This will be their 10th attempt.
One has to wonder how much of this failure is down to the psychological aspects of the game. The build-up that week. The media attention. The expectation of friends and family. The match day. The crowd. The groans from fans as small margins start to go against the team.
This time around both teams will face nothing both 15 others and silence. It might be enough for one or even both to prevail. Time will tell.