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What Lighting Levels Are Required for Professional Sport?

Outdoor sports are played at dusk or at night and naturally, they require strong lights. They can never be as strong as daylight, nor can they match the lighting lever of indoor sports. In fact, lighting is crucial to pretty much any sports but neither the athletes nor the spectators give much thought about the light making the sporting event possible. However, lighting levels are not the same for every sport and they can differ significantly. Sporting association endeavour to set the rules on how strong the lights should be and clubs do their best to meet these standards. So, what are the parameters when it comes to determining lighting levels and how do they fit with different sports?

The question of ownership

A common problem that occurs even in world-class sports is the ownership of the sporting facility. In many cases, clubs themselves aren’t the owners of their stadium but they rather belong to the city council or they are privately or state-owned. This means that clubs have little say in the general upkeep, including influencing the lighting levels. Professional associations and league authorities are aware of this and they usually cut the clubs some slack because they know that being a tenant is not easy. However, club management should endeavour to cooperate with the owner of the grounds to have a say in the lighting levels and bring them to the desired standard.

The illuminance requirements

Simply put, the intensity or the strength of lighting is determined by a lux, a unit of measurement of illuminance and luminous emittance. It measures the strength of light per a unit area, where one lumen equals one square meter. The levels of illuminance for amateur and semi-professionals fields differ significantly from the one for professional sport. For the former, the illuminance requirements range from 50 to 200 lux, while the latter goes from 100 all the way to 500. These figures apply to outdoor sports with sizeable playing fields, like rugby, football, baseball etc.

Training lighting and competition lighting

The intensity of lighting is not determined only by the size of the pitch but by the importance of the event. In general, there are three categories by which groundsmen determine how strong the lighting should be on a particular night. Firstly, there is ball and physical training that requires low illuminance levels from 50 to 100 lux. Next in importance are match practices and club competitions for amateur clubs, which require double the lux strength. Finally, professional competition matches require the strongest of lighting, i.e. almost all of the illumination power a sports venue has.

What type of lighting is the best?

By now, you are probably wondering what type of lighting provides the most of lux. Floodlights are the most common type but they are huge users of electrical energy. On the other hand, LED lights use 40% less energy than conventional lights. A 2kW halide fitting uses the same amount of energy as a 1.2 kW LED module installed by companies such as Legacy lighting and they can be replaced 1 for 1, so existing poles can be used for the lighting upgrade. Furthermore, LED lighting requires 90% less maintenance because there is no need to replace any lights, just to clean them after a major sand storm, for example. Finally, LEDs are turned instantly on, which is ideal for doing away with those awkward moments when the power goes in the middle of the match and then you have to wait for the lights to go back on.

Example: lighting levels for different sports

So far, we have only mentioned the most popular sports, such as rugby or football. In general, the minimum standard for football is 120 lux, while for rugby it is somewhat higher and it averages at 200 lux. Field hockey is the unlikely candidate that requires at least 350 lux to play, but that is the case. One explanation behind this phenomenon is that the smaller the ball (or puck), the stronger the illumination requirement. That is why tennis courts must have at least 750 lux for international competitions!

In the end, we see that lighting levels do not depend on a particular sport only. There are other factors, such as the size of the field of play, the size of the ball and even ownership of the sports grounds.

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