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Association Football field at a sports centre illuminated with floodlights.

Floodlights are broad-beamed, high-intensity artificial lights. They are often used to illuminate outdoor playing fields while an outdoor sports event is being held during low-light conditions. More focused kinds are often used as a stage lighting instrument in live performances such as concerts and plays.

In the top tiers of many professional sports, it is a requirement for stadiums to have floodlights to allow games to be scheduled outside daylight hours. Evening or night matches may suit spectators who have work or other commitment earlier in the day. One motivation for this is television marketing, especially in sports such as gridiron football which rely on TV rights money to finance the sport. Some sports grounds which do not have permanent floodlights installed may make use of portable temporary ones instead. Many larger floodlights (see bottom picture) will have gantries for bulb changing and maintenance. These will usually be able to accommodate one or two maintenance workers.


The most common type of floodlight is the metal-halide lamp, which emits a bright white light (typically 75-100 lumens/Watt). Sodium-vapor lamps are also commonly used for sporting events, as they have a very high lumen-to-watt ratio (typically 80–140 lumens/Watt), making them a cost-effective choice when certain lux levels must be provided.[1]

LED flood lights are bright enough to be used for illumination purposes on large sport fields. The main reason for the use of LEDs is the lower power consumption and the fact that LED bulbs last longer.

The first LED lit sports field in the United Kingdom was switched on at Taunton Vale Sports Club on 6 September 2014. [2]


The first sport to play under floodlights was polo, on 18 July 1878. Ranelagh Club hosted a match in Fulham, London, England against the Hurlingham Club.[3]

Australian rules football[edit]

Australian rules football match under electric lights at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1879

In August 1879, two matches of Australian rules football were staged at the Melbourne Cricket Ground under electric lights. The first was between two "scratch" teams composed of military personnel. The following week, two of the city's leading football clubs, rivals Carlton and Melbourne, played another night match. On both occasions, the lights failed to illuminate the whole ground, and the spectators struggled to make sense of the action in the murky conditions.


A floodlight at Trent Bridge cricket ground in Nottingham

Cricket was first played under floodlights on Monday, 11 August 1952[4] in England which was watched by several million people on their television sets. Since then most test playing countries have installed floodlights in some or all of their stadiums. Traditional Cricket floodlights have a long pole on which lights are fixed. This is done because several times, the ball travels too high when a batsman hits it and high lights are needed to keep the ball in sight. However, many cricket stadiums have different types of floodlights like the ANZ Stadium in Australia. The DSC Cricket Stadium in Dubai recently installed Ring of Fire[5] system of floodlights which is latest and smartest system of floodlight in the world.[citation needed]

Association football[edit]

A floodlight used on a football field
Floodlights on a Rugby League field at the Headingley Stadium in Leeds, UK. This is a common style of floodlights at older football and rugby grounds in England and Scotland. (Note the two gantries near the light for servicing)

Bramall Lane was reportedly the first floodlit stadium. Floodlighting in association football dates as far back as 1878, when there were floodlit experimental matches at Bramall Lane, Sheffield during the dark winter afternoons. With no national grid, lights were powered by batteries and dynamoes, and were unreliable. Lights were later be used by clubs such as Thames Ironworks, but they stopped the practice after joining the Southern League in 1888.[citation needed]

In 1929 the Providence Clamdiggers football club hosted the Bethlehem Steel "under the rays of powerful flood lights, an innovation in soccer" at their Providence, Rhode Island stadium.[6] In the 1930s, Herbert Chapman installed lights into the new West Stand at Highbury but the Football League refused to sanction their use. This situation lasted until the 1950s, when the popularity of floodlit friendlies became such that the League relented. In September 1949, South Liverpool FC's Holly Park ground hosted the first game in England under "permanent" floodlights: a friendly against a Nigerian XI.[7] In 1950, Southampton FC's stadium, The Dell, became the first ground in England to have permanent floodlighting installed. The first game played under the lights there was on 31 October 1950, in a friendly against Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, followed a year later by the first "official" match under floodlights, a Football Combination (Reserve team) match against Tottenham Hotspur on 1 October 1951. The first international game under floodlights of an England game at Wembley was 30 November 1955 against Spain, England winning 4-1. The first floodlit Football League match took place at Fratton Park, Portsmouth on 22 February 1956 between Portsmouth and Newcastle United.[8]

Many clubs have taken their floodlights down and replaced them with new ones along the roof line of the stands. This previously had not been possible as many grounds comprised open terraces and roof lines on covered stands were too low. Elland Road, Old Trafford and Anfield were the first major grounds to do this in the early 1990s. Deepdale, The Galpharm Stadium and the JJB Stadium have since been built with traditional floodlights on pylons.

Rugby League[edit]

The First Rugby League Match to be played under floodlights was on 14 December 1932 when Wigan met Leeds in an exhibition match played at White City Stadium in London (8pm Kick Off).[9] Leeds won 18–9 in front of a crowd of over 10,000 spectators. The venture was such a success that the owners of the White City Ground took over the "Wigan Highfield" club and moved them to play Rugby League games at the ground under floodlights the following season, with most of their matches kicking off on Wednesday Nights at 8pm. That venture only lasted one season before the club moved back up north.

The first floodlit match for rugby league played in the heartlands was on 31 October 1951 at Odsal Stadium, Bradford when Bradford Northern played New Zealand in front of 29,072.[10]

For a club to play in the Super League they must have a ground with floodlights adequate for playing a professional game.

Amateur use[edit]

Many smaller amateur clubs will have less substantial floodlights, often only suitable for training and not playing a full game. Often they will only illuminate a small part of the playing area.[citation needed]

Other uses[edit]

Floodlights are also used in other sports such as racing, baseball, and tennis.


  1. ^ "edisontechcenter.org/SodiumLamps". edisontechcenter.org. Archived from the original on 18 September 2014.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  3. ^ Inglis, Simon (2014). Played in London. Swindon: English Heritage. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84802-057-3.
  4. ^ "Let there be light". cricinfo.com. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Dubai Sports City". Dubaisportscity.ae. 19 August 2008. Archived from the original on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  6. ^ "Draw with Providence in Night Soccer game". Bethlehem Steel Soccer. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  7. ^ wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Liverpool_F.C.
  8. ^ "The History Of The Football League". The Football League. Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2007-02-22.
  9. ^ "The History Of Rugby League". Rugby League Information. napit.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Timeline of events at Odsal stadium" (PDF). Past Times the social history of Odsal stadium project. Bradford Bulls Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2011.