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Josef Hargrave

Global foresight manager

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Lighting and sports stadium atmosphere

Lighting and sports stadium atmosphere

Focus Area

Cities, Digital


Lighting, Sport





Stadium designers aspire to better understand the impact of their designs on framing people’s experience within the stadium environment. The live atmosphere and ambience in a stadium depends on many factors, including the spectators, the players and the game itself. The stadium design and its lighting also have a significant influence on the in-stadium experience of spectators.

This project established a quantitative, measureable link between the lighting environment in a stadium and the perceived atmosphere and spectator experience. This was achieved using comprehensive, high resolution architectural and lighting data captured from surveys within flood-lit stadia. The visual experience at different venues was compared using a multi-factorial assessment indicator tool, which included an appraisal of subjective components of the spectator experience.

Key Findings

Major sports governing bodies typically require the measurement of pitch illuminance and flicker factors to demonstrate compliance of stadium lighting performance. Illuminance is measured across the horizontal plane of the pitch over a grid of points and, for TV broadcast purposes, also on four vertical planes and towards the main camera.

Although significant to spectators, glare is not typically required to be measured, and there is currently no agreed method for glare measurement. Arup developed an image-based glare rating assessment tool, which was used for analyses in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Pitch illumination measurements do not encapsulate or communicate the lighting ambience within the stadium bowl that is experienced by spectators at the venue. Five quantitative assessment indicators and four qualitative, subjective assessment indicators have been developed to address this gap:

  • three of the quantitative indicators are illumination metrics based on the ratio of luminance within different parts of the scene, with the objective of describing the relationship between the scene periphery and the action taking place on the pitch;
  • a floodlight elevation indicator describes quantitatively the location of the most likely glare source within the field of view;
  • a light quality indicator summarises the following quantitative aspects of the light: illuminance, uniformity, colour rendering, colour temperature, luminance ratios and glare;
  • the subjective comfort assessments use the results of a questionnaire-based appraisal, the scores from which are compared with the quantitative luminance ratios and glare ratings calculated from high dynamic range (HDR) images to give a score.


A recent update to the UK Premier League’s standards for floodlighting increased illumination to support high-definition television (HDTV) broadcasts. That does not necessarily also deliver the optimal lighting conditions for the comfort and experience of spectators inside the stadium venue.

This project applied a comprehensive methodology to simulate and visualise the spectator experience within sports stadia, validated by a substantial set of real-world measurements.


No existing research data addressed spectator lighting conditions within football stadia, except for safety and emergency evacuation requirements. This study is a first for sports lighting.