Autumn is always a testing time for Groundsmen, not only having to deal with changing weather fronts and the constant threat of damage to their pitches, they are also faced with less daylight hours, due to the fact that the clocks go back an hour at the end October.
This effectively means that, by the end of the month, we find ourselves in darkness at around 5pm.
For many sports clubs, this means they need to have floodlit facilities to be able to carry out maintenance operations, train and play matches in the evenings.
In recent, years we have seen tremendous progress in the type and selection of floodlighting systems made available for sports clubs. The number of floodlit playing surfaces has dramatically increased, both for natural and artificial facilities; the main reason for this has been due to huge amount of money made available to Sports Governing Bodies via our National Lottery funding.
Millions of pounds have been awarded to sports clubs to improve their facilities. As part of these improvements, we have seen many clubs invest in floodlighting systems
Projects involving artificial grass pitch construction generally incorporate floodlights in order to maximise the use of the pitch. Floodlighting can be an expensive part of a pitch construction project and should be properly researched. Planning permission is generally required and applications should incorporate contingencies for minimising glare and light pollution.
Many football league and cup competitions specify the minimum level of lighting they require, and artificial grass pitches designed for multi-sport should ensure that their proposed lighting considers the needs of all the various sports to be played.
Where no requirements are stated the minimum levels of performance should be in accordance with FIFA's Class II which, for 11 a side football, is a minimum maintained average illumination of 200 lux. Care must be taken to ensure that the lighting design produces uniformity of the required illumination and that glare and light pollution are minimised.
Lighting of full size pitches can be achieved by mounting two or three lamps onto a six or eight column system 15m -18m high, positioned along the side of the pitch outside the fence-line. Columns may be hinged for ease of maintenance. A unit is required to house the controls and a 3-phase supply may be required.
To minimise running costs and for flexibility of use, the lighting system should allow part illumination of the pitch (half pitch and/or thirds) and a lower level of lighting for training (minimum maintained average illumination of 120 lux).
Hockey requires a minimum maintained average illumination of 500 to 750 lux depending on level of play. For MUGAs where football is the primary sport and hockey is secondary, a minimum level of 350 lux may be used.
As for costs, how long is a piece of string? The actual cost will be down to specific design, number of columns/ lamps required to illuminate the sports facility. As mentioned earlier, this will be dependent on many factors, eg lux values, size of facility, type of sport /activity (rugby, football, hockey, tennis). Generally, the smaller the ball the more light you require.
As for training lights, these again come in varying formats. However, in recent years, we have seen the development of portable lighting rigs that can be bought outright or hired, offering greater flexibility for clubs.
Having the ability to move lighting around has many advantages, giving clubs the ability to floodlight different pitches / training areas, thus reducing surface wear, plus the fact that can either buy outright or hire to suit their budgets or needs.
Some are the same lights as often seen on the motorways when work is being carried out late at night; the engines last for around 100,000 hours with relatively low maintenance costs.
These mobile lighting rigs can cost anything between £9000 and £18,000 per unit new and about half as much used, with at least two required to light up a whole pitch.
Permanent floodlights can cost from £40,000 to £80,000 to cover a full-size pitch at an amateur club and considerably more once you start looking at more expensive makes and models.
Because of the cost implications, the second-hand market has arguably overtaken the market for brand new mobile floodlighting units. And, when you consider they cost around £600 per week to rent from most hire companies, it is often a capital investment that clubs and schools should consider making.
Even after making the important decision of installing a floodlight system, there will be then the ongoing maintenance and running costs. These lighting systems will also require certification and annual inspections by qualified electricians to ensure they are safe for use.
Even the simple task of changing light bulbs can often be difficult and costly, so some contingencies/resources need to be in place to undertake these operations.
The choice and range of lighting systems can be quite complex, however, there are plenty of reputable companies and governing bodies that can offer advice.
Below are a number of links to relevant publications on the selection and choice of floodlighting systems.
Floodlighting Services Wales https://d2j31icv6dlhz6.cloudfront.net/O/ddFGDPXTvQAXGWZGgzmO/general-flood-guide.pdf