San Francisco 49ers Forced to Travel 700 Miles for ‘Home’ Games in the NFL

Arizona Road SignHome advantage is very much a phenomenon in all team sports, and particularly so in the United States where the distances that away sides must travel to games puts them on the back foot before the action has even begun.

And so we have to have some sympathy for the San Francisco 49ers, the five-time Super Bowl champions who will be force to play their ‘home’ games as far as 700 miles away from their Levi’s Stadium base in Santa Clara!

There are strict coronavirus restrictions now in place in northern California, and so the 49ers will instead have to travel to the State Farm Stadium home of the Arizona Cardinals for their next few games after Santa Clara governors put a three-week ban on all contact sports in the area.

It puts the San Francisco franchise at a significant disadvantage, and that will hardly lighten the mood around the camp given that they find themselves currently bottom of the NFC West table.

What is the Longest Trip a Team Makes for Home Matches?

Plane Taking Off

While the 49ers’ players and coaching staff will feel aggrieved at the arduous trips they will now have to make for home matches, they should spare a thought for those even less fortunate than them.

Take Syria’s national football team, for example. Due to the ongoing conflict in the country, they are still unable to play their home qualifiers for the World Cup on their own turf. But with few nations willing to help them out, they travelled the best part of 5,000 miles to Malaysia for a string of ‘home’ qualification matches in 2017.

There are other instances that can challenge this, although both were ‘one offs’. In qualifying for the 1978 World Cup, both Taiwan and Japan would let their opponents host both of the home and away ties, meaning that the former travelled 5,500 miles for their home game against New Zealand and the latter some 5,700 miles to Israel.

And, based on similar parameters, Brazil’s friendly against Zambia in Beijing in 2013 saw the Selecao travel 10,700 miles from the country’s capital of Rio de Janeiro (some of their players flew in from Europe, of course).

As far as club football is concerned, political conflict in Dagestan left the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala without a home in 2013, and one of the nearest grounds that met UEFA regulations for hosting European ties was the Saturn Stadium near Moscow….a cool 965 miles away.

Shakhtar Donetsk, often considered the best football team in the Ukraine, are a regular in the Champions League and have a healthy fanbase – more than 35,000 supporters have got behind their side in continental action. And so you can imagine trying to sort out the travel arrangements when they were forced into exile due to conflict in eastern Ukraine back in 2014. Shakhtar had to decamp to Lviv, which is around 650 miles away.

All of which puts into perspective the travails of Barnet fans. Their home ground, The Hive, is nearly seven miles from High Barnet town centre – thought to the longest distance a fan in England has to travel from their team’s natural geographical home to their football stadium.

As for the longest away trip for a domestic league game, that’s thought to have occurred in Russia as recently as 2018. Baltika Kaliningrad made the 13,000 mile round trip to take on Luch Vladivostock in the First Division, taking a handful of supporters with them. They would have been overjoyed with the subsequent 0-0 draw….