Good weather and an outdoor lifestyle has ensure that sport is a way of life in Australia.  

With a large number of facilities around the country it is usually not a far drive to the nearest club, whatever your sport of choice is.  Tennis, athletics, soccer, footy, cricket or equestrian – you name it and there is likely to be a club nearby.

However even with all the amenities available it is sometimes difficult to track down companies who service and maintain these facilities.  Whilst there are many companies willing to do the work you need to ensure they have the experience and expertise to keep your facility in peak performance.  Track surfaces, lighting, lighting poles and servicing and installation are some of the main areas that are not always easy to find the right company.

We have compiled a list of companies who we believe are at the top of their game.

Lighting Pole Manufacturers

Lighting poles are a critical part of the lighting design and need to be investigated thoroughly as making a mistake in the source of poles can be very expensive to rectify later.  Knowing what lights are to be used makes a big difference to what the poles may cost as every lighting manufacturer has different efficiencies and therefore different weight to output ratios.  A lighting plan should therefore be done first and then the poles should be designed. Most pole manufacturers’ offer a complete kit for DIY installation for smaller poles or would supervise installation for bigger projects.

Blue Sun Poles   
Contact Tony on 1300 412 438

Contact Stephan on 07 3041 1112

Galvanised Poles Australia
Contact Eric on 1300 790 343

Auspole Products
Contact Phil on 08 9417 1207

Electrical Installation & Maintenance

There are a number of players in this market, some being national and some regional.  It is important that you are comfortable with your selection as they are playing a vital role in your club.  Many clubs would have a resident electrician who would be able to offer their services. However if you don’t know that right person or need a higher level of expertise there are a number of specialist out there who are focused particularly on high power sport applications, most of which offer a national service with offices and technicians around the country.

These companies can provide a turn-key solution from lighting layout and lux plans, supply and installation of poles, connection and fitting:

CME Sports Lighting

Flood Lighting Australia

IWE Group

Lighting Supply

Be careful on this one.  There are a number of ‘generic’ lighting suppliers but very few specialists.  When looking at lighting there are a few things to bear in mind and, as a rule of thumb, price should be near the bottom of the list.  Key factors include:

  • What beam pattern do the lights produce i.e. round or asymmetric?
  • How many lights will be needed to get the desired lux levels?
  • Do they mount horizontally so as not to create glare for players and neighbours?
  • Can they be accommodated by existing poles or do we need new ones?
  • Do we have enough electrical supply?
  • What is the cost?
  • What CRI options are available?

Two well-known options are Phillips and Gerard Lighting, although there are a number of others who would be competitive and offer a good product.  They typically work through a network of designers and wholesalers whereas some of the alternatives offer a shorter chain, thereby getting closer to the source.

Sport Surfaces

Different companies specialise in different surfaces so once you know what you need you can identify your best partner.  Alternatively all the companies listed below have vast experience and will be able to recommend what would be best for your situation.

1800 663812

Regupol Australia
02 4624 0050

Premier Sports & Leisure
1300 552 882

William Loud
03 9792 0622

ABS Sportsfields
1300 66 36 35

Doing a major upgrade on your club or facility is a big investment and mistakes will have to be endured for many years.  Spend extra time doing the research up-front and we can guarantee that you will save a lot of time and money into the future.

Please note these companies have no affiliation with Legacy Lighting and we have provided their details for convenience when sourcing these types of products and services.


Getting enough light on the ground without bothering the neighbours is a great start to a good game of evening football.  When evaluating what will, or won’t, work there is a number of parameters that will affect the results.  Lumens and Lux are 2 of the most common to be looked into so let’s explain a bit more about both terms and then the answer becomes more clear.

Lumens is a measurement of the volume of light being emitted by the lamp.  This is controlled by how the manufacturer of the LED chip (Cree, Lumiled etc.) has designed it and the value will vary depending on how much current is put through it.  For instance, a 5W chip operating at 5W may produce 90 lumens/watt.  That is, for every watt of power put in, it will generate 90 lumens out.  However, if you run the same LED at 3W you will get a big increase in the efficiency and generate perhaps 120 lumens/watt.  The lamp manufacturer therefore specifies a gross lumens value in two ways – raw lumens and effective lumens.  The raw lumens is what the LED manufacturer has put as the value at a given temperature and wattage.  This does not take into account the lamp as a system and doesn’t reflect any calculation for losses from optics, temperature etc.  The effective lumens is what is calculated once the lamp has been built into a system.  This is tested over a period of hours and so allows the lamp time to heat up and is testing the actual light output rather than the theoretical light produced in a laboratory by the LED itself.  If the lighting manufacturer doesn’t specify if the values stated are raw or effective, you can safely assume they are raw.  Losses from raw to effective may be as much as 30% and is specific to the system i.e. cannot be estimated without knowing more details about the lamp as a whole.

Lux, on the other hand is a practical, field measurement of real light on the ground or at a specified height.  This test can be done physically or simulated using software and the IES (digital light pattern) file. Once the lamps have been set up on their poles (or simulated) and the field is illuminated, then you can measure the actual light on the ground.  This takes into account the same losses as the effective lumens test but also shows how the light is controlled.  This is very important for big-field sports like football, cricket, baseball and rugby.  Having a huge mass of bright light that only shines 50m isn’t very helpful on a rugby field.  Additionally, the mass of light tends to have a lot of stray light which can tend to annoy spectators and neighbours.

So, whilst you have to have the right lumen values being emitted from the lamp, the way it is controlled is of utmost importance.  Just because a light has high power and lots of lumens doesn’t mean the light will go where you want it to go.  A proper lighting plan is therefore essential.  If you are not sure what lighting levels you need there are a number of sources of this info – a handy quick reference being is the Legacy guide but there are numerous more detailed sources available.  Once you know what the standard is, check out your lighting levels with a lux meter.  Again there are some helpful app downloads to give you an idea of where your illumination is up to.  If this is sufficient, use it as the base for your design.  If it isn’t sufficient, work with the lighting guidelines and the designer to come up with a system that works.

It’s a good idea to get a couple of lighting companies so you can compare the lighting plans from different manufacturers.  Once done you should be well on the way to making a better, more informed decision, achieving efficiency and low maintenance for many years to come.


If you have looked into LED lighting at all you will have noticed there is dozens, if not hundreds, of options.  So, as you can imagine, there a dozens, if not hundreds, of variations to the answer of this question. They range from 100W to 1500W, big fins, small fins, fan assisted, metal pressed, die cast, white powder coat, black powder coat, COB’s, small chip LED’s, high efficiency LED’s and so on and so on.  Your head begins to spin at the options, but one thing you can be sure of is that LED is the most efficient – right?  Wrong.  Or more correctly – potentially wrong.

Let’s just confirm that point quickly as it is really important – just because it is LED does not mean that it is energy efficient.  Or, conversely, just because it is old technology metal halide does not make it inefficient.  A number of factors need to be assessed to decide if LED is going to work for you.  How often are the lights used, and for how long etc. etc.

So let’s look at some of these factors in a bit more detail…

How often are the lights used and for how long?

A while back we had a client insisting on looking at LED.  They ran a rodeo once a year for one night and he felt LED was going to give him the best return on investment because if ‘was the best’ and ‘the latest technology’.  Needless to say we were dubious.  The LED fittings he wanted cost 4 times that of metal halide and the amount of electricity used in the year would have only been 10’s of dollars because of only being used once a year.  In this case there was no way of justifying the purchase.  On the other hand, making a 40% energy saving on 100’s of hours of use per year can make it very viable.

How many lights will I need to use?

The only way to conclusively check if there is a gross energy saving is to get a lighting plan done.  If you are using the existing poles then you can figure out what lighting levels you already have and get a comparative study done using LED.  You can immediately see if you will require more or less fittings and energy by the layout results.  Don’t take this as a given that LED will reduce your energy consumption.  Most systems are less efficient than their traditional alternatives.

Optics and field size

The larger the field, the more difficult it is for LED to improve on power consumption.  This is because many of the LED optics are not optimised for big field sports and are therefore very inefficient at distributing the light, particularly at a distance.  The critical factor is the control of the light with optics or reflectors as this determines ultimately how many LED watts will be required.  Again, a lighting plan using the IES file for the specified light is the only way to know if it will work or not.  Don’t baulk at this step.  It may cost a few hundred dollars at worst, and at best could save you hundreds of thousands in wasted investment.

To conclude then, efficiency is relative to the size of the investment vs the usage of the lights.  Assuming you get a really good optic and can replace your metal halide fittings and get a 40% saving in electricity, make sure you get a sensible return on investment by looking at the whole lifetime cost, rather than just focusing on the isolated factor of energy consumption.

A key difference between traditional metal halide fittings and LED fittings is the maintenance costs.  The basic housing for the metal halide fittings can last for 10’s of years but the bulbs need to be replaced regularly as they lose 20-25% of their efficiency within the first 250 hours of operation.  By contrast LED fittings should last 50000 hours as a system without the need for maintenance other than occasional cleaning.

Whilst this is all perfectly true, the flip side is that if the metal halide fails, you only have to replace the bulb.  By contrast, if the LED fails, you have to replace the whole unit.

A number of factors influence how long the LED’s last.  Key elements are the driver, the LED’s, waterproofing, condensation control and the control of heat.

The Driver or Power supply

This is a critical component and is one of the most common causes of failure in LED’s.  The power supply in a mains AC powered system is essentially the brains of the lamp.  The PC Board in an AC system is a ‘dumb’ board loaded with LED’s.  All control, dimming etc are controlled by the power supply, except for the temperature control on the board.  There are a number of specialist manufacturers who offer very good warranties and have proved themselves in the field. Ensure your supplier is not economising on this component as it is likely to be where issues will come from and can be expensive to replace.

The LED’s

There is a large number of proven manufacturers of LED’s.  While a brand is no guarantee of high performance and longevity, there is credibility with some of these companies who have consistently produced excellent products for many years.  Amongst these are Cree, LG and Lumiled although lighting manufacturers constantly need to experiment with other products to ensure they keep in the forefront of the industry.  However, it is worth checking the credibility of the brand of LED’s to give you some idea of what your warranty is worth.


As sports lights are generally installed outside a level of waterproofing is essential.  This would usually involve a seal around the lens and a waterproof cable gland. Once moisture gets into the lights it quickly damages the PC Board and will result in failures within days.


When a lamp has been working hard and getting hot, a sudden change in temperature (like from rain) can cause the air in the lamp to condense.  This results in fogging in the lamp which will very quickly can deterioration in the electronics, and ultimately, failure.  Most lights are now designed with a breather valve.  This means that if there is a build-up of condensation in the lamp the moisture can go out, but not back in.  This method is virtually fool-proof and is essential for all lamps that are not made in a moisture free environment – which is the majority of lamps in the world.

Control of heat

One of the principle causes of LED failure is overheating.  The 2 main ways to control this is by having sufficient heat sinking and by moderating the temperature of the PC Board electronically.  As the housing is static and airflow is unpredictable, the surface area and fin size influences how well it will control the heat.  The other aspect is to control how hard the LED’s run.  The more current they draw the hotter they will be.  Control mechanisms are therefore put into place to throttle the current draw which in turn allows the LED’s time to cool down.  This method is only successful when used in conjunction with an effective heat sink and is not an alternative to a good heatsink.

So, lots to look into but once you’ve explored all the options and you’re confident of your decision, you will have a system that will last for many years to come.

On the field, lighting levels are measured with a light, or lux, meter.  The results are expressed in Lux (lumens/m2) or foot candles (lumens/ft2).  This gives an objective measurement of the amount of light at a specific point.  However, prior to achieving this, the layout is planned using a digital file called an IES file.

Each lamp has different current draw, efficiency, CRI, colour temperature and most importantly, beam pattern. The IES file contains the beam pattern of the luminaire to be used, in a format that allows the designer to plan the position of the poles, height of the poles and angles of the luminaires in order to achieve uniform lighting at a particular lux level.  The engineer can very accurately achieve an end result once he knows what standard or ideal he is working towards.

These standards are set out by governing bodies, sports associations, local governments and other interested parties.   Almost every country, and sometimes even states, have got their own regulations and recommendations in regard to lighting levels for sports but many of these are guided by associations and federations.  Every sport has been individually assessed by professionals and there are minor tweaks and changes to differentiate one from another.  The influencing factors include the size of the ball, the speed of play, the size of the field and distance from the spectators. If play is being videoed or televised also has a large impact on the level of lighting, as well as the definition required.

Another point to mention is CRI or Colour Rendering Index.  Many standards that were written pre-2010 or thereabouts don’t take LED into account as it wasn’t then available for sport applications.  If this was the case it is likely that no mention will be made of CRI.  This is because metal halide fittings, which have been used in sport for decades, naturally have a high CRI.  For those who don’t know we have inserted a comment on Colour Rendering Index giving the Wikipedia explanation as of May 2018:

‘A colour rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colours of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in colour-critical applications such as neonatal care and art restoration.’

Put a bit more simply: ‘How much detail can we see’. If you are studying something fast moving or in great detail, it is important to have a very high CRI.

Anyway, back to the standards!  Mostly this information is available to download for free and we have listed some of the regulatory bodies below, but this is by no means exhaustive.

In this article we have tried to summarise required lux levels for some of the most common sports, based on the three most common types of usage, excluding televised professional games:

  1. a)Class 1 – High level competition involving national and international matches.  Stadiums are large and therefore spectators are some distance away from the action.
  2. b)Class 2 – Mid-level covering regional clubs.  Viewing is likely to be somewhat closer than for Class 1 and crowds are smaller.  This could also be a suitable level for training for Class 1.
  3. c)Class 3 – Local competitions and recreational use with no grand-stand and spectators very close to the field.  This could also be a level suitable for training for Class 2.

The summary below is gleaned primarily from our interpretation of the standards (averaging where there are differences), the majority of which are set out in EN12193.  Please note FIFA and others refer to the Classes in the reverse order and so Class 1 is for training, and so on.


  Lux Levels Required
Sport Type Class 1 Class 2 Class 3
Football (Soccer) 500 200 75
Rugby 500 200 75
Tennis – outdoor 500 300 200
Tennis – indoor 750 500 300
Baseball 750 500 200
Hockey 500 250 200
Athletics 500 200 100
Golf 100
Playing court 500 200 75
Swimming pool 500 300 200
Multi-purpose sports hall 750 500 200
Ice Hockey Rink 750 500 300
Badminton/Squash 750 500 300
Alpine skiing 100 30 20
Horse racing 200 100 50


Regulatory bodies

The regulatory bodies listed below have detailed recommendations and suggestions, covering a host of topics apart from lighting levels.  For a deeper dive into what is required, you may find some of them useful.

Fifa standard for lighting

Guidelines for lighting for AFL, Soccer and Netball in Australia

UEFA lighting guidelines

US Soccer Foundation

All USA sports – NCAA

Football Association of Ireland

Rugby Australia

Standards Australia

International Tennis Federation

Federation of International Hockey

Illuminating Engineering Society – Paid for version

CIBSE Lighting Regulations – Paid for version

So, that’s a very broad overview.  To see where you are compared to the standard there are a few apps for lux measurement which can help such as Light Lux Meter Pro for iOS or Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android.  Download one of these and you can easily check if you are getting the type of output you thought you were from your fittings.






 It will also give you an idea of how energy efficient your current system is and if you could improve this by replacing the bulbs or converting to LED.  There are a number of suppliers that will do a free assessment once you have provided this basic information, along with a field/pole layout.

High powered LED sports lights come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, beam patterns and CRI’s.  With the benefits of being digital there is amazing things that can be done with them to create effects, dim, flash etc. and are all features that can enhance the user experience and make your sports field much more multi-functional.  This increases the options for revenue streams and makes better use of the facility.

So, how much do these digital luminaires cost?

Well, as you’ve probably guessed, that depends on how far you want to go.  As the sky is literally the limit for what you can spend with all special effects, we have tried to just deal with conventional lighting for sport applications. Each sport has very different and specific requirements with relation to CRI, lux levels and pole heights and so we have not attempted to make this an exhaustive guide.

Many companies will do lighting layouts and IES files free of charge, or for small charge, so you to prove more accurately what the costs will be, but this should put you in the right ball-park so there’s no dramatic surprises.

There will be two main scenario’s:  Brand new build and replacement of metal halide fittings.

Brand New Build

This is the most difficult to guesstimate as you have nothing to work on to begin with.  However, let’s make a start.  Broadly speaking there are generally three levels of play – Class 1, 2 and 3.  This guide does not attempt to estimate a facility that will be have televised matches as the lighting required for this is significantly higher and is much more complex.  Also for a new installation bear in the mind the cost of the light fittings themselves is likely to be only about 20% of the cost of the poles, provision of power, control gear and installation.

Due to there being many different regulations in different countries we have broadly grouped them into 3 groups which reflect the lighting level required.

Group 1 – Involves large capacity crowds who are situated quite far from the action


  • Lighting level of 500 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range allows for CRI of 70-90
  • Estimated luminaire cost US$15-US$20/m2

Group 2 – This could be regional club matches with medium sized crowds and also include high-level training


  • Lighting level of 200 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range allows for CRI of 70-90
  • Estimated luminaire cost US7-US10/m2

Group 3 – Local matches or recreation grounds with very few spectators and also training

  • Lighting level of 75-100 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range assumes CRI of 70
  • Estimated luminaire cost US4-6/m2

Replacement of metal halide fittings:

This scenario is simpler to estimate assuming you are happy with the lighting levels you currently have.  If you are unsure what they are or want to check they are near what you assumed, there are a few apps such as Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android or Lux Light Meter Pro for iOS which give a good indication.






Assuming that you find the existing levels are what you need, then the calculation is simply a one-for-one replacement in most situations.  As an approximation the replacement of a 1kW metal halide fitting would be US$1500 and the replacement of a 2kW metal halide fitting would be US$2500, for a 70 CRI and about 10-15% more for a 90 CRI module.

If you are not happy with your existing lighting levels use the guide above for ‘New Build’ which gives a lux level and is based on square meter averages.

As you will appreciate there are a huge amount of variables in a calculation of this nature and we would always recommend getting a lighting plan done by a professional company.  However, this will hopefully put you in ball-park and give you something to work on.

Need a more accurate quote?  Try using our Sports Lighting Cost Calculator or contact Legacy Lighting for a personalised quote.

Sport lighting is a specialised and complex science.  The lighting level, evenness, glare, CRI, heights and spill-light control are all aspects the designer has to take into account and all these parameters vary depending on the application.  For a game where the ball is small and fast moving, like tennis, high lighting levels are required with a very good CRI.  If the game is being videoed or televised the lighting levels and pitch uniformity have to be of a very high standard.

Over the years we have taken a lot of this for granted with metal halide systems.  Although an old technology, metal halide naturally produces a very high CRI, flicker-free light with a very good colour temperature. The development of the reflectors over the years has resulted in a very efficient system that was relatively simple for designers to specify.  With only two main beam patterns, almost any big-field sport was catered for and increasing the number of lights brought up the lux readings to the desired level.

The introduction of LED a decade ago was thought to signal the death of 2kW metal halide fittings as they are ‘old and outdated’.  However, while all other forms of lighting were changing rapidly, sport lighting remained surprisingly static. Early adopters burned their fingers with very heavy lights that gave bad light and failed regularly. As a result designers have shied away from these digital fittings that could potentially give them a bad name.  From our attempts, even as recently as 2015, it needed nearly 3000W of LED power to get a similar beam to a 2000W metal halide. Considering the extra weight and necessary pole thickness upgrade and the 100% increase in unit cost LED, was not looking very favourable.

However, LED manufacturers like Cree and LG have continued to improve light output and efficiencies. Optic designers have carried on working away and now there are some systems that can truly replace metal halide one for one.

However, when looking at doing a swap out there are a number of points to consider.

Weight and sail area (surface area)

The poles you currently use have been designed for a specific weight and sail area.  Increasing either, or both of these could have quite dramatic effects in high wind.  Make sure that neither of them exceeds what is currently used or obtain the original poles drawings to make sure the increase can be accommodated in the existing design.  This should be carried out by a qualified structural engineer.

Lux levels

Assess accurately what the current lux levels are of your field, decide what you need.  Just because you had it designed to 500 lux 20 years ago by no means guarantees that is what it is at present. Be realistic and don’t over-specify unless power consumption and capital budget are not an issue.

Power consumption

Once the layout design has been completed, ensure that the power consumption is within the tolerances of what you have available for peak demand. This might sound obvious but many systems have been implemented without taking this into account.

  • CRI requirement will depend on what level of sport is being played. For most training and club applications 70 CRI is sufficient.  If the games are to be televised or it is amateur level with a small ball i.e. cricket, then 90 CRI may be needed.  This is not something that can be changed later so needs consideration early on as the price is affected by up to 20%.
  • If you’re not sure about the company making the lights, or can’t find out much about them, the two most important parts of the light are the driver and the LED’s. Ask for make and model and research these thoroughly.  If both these components are from a reliable source, it is likely the lamp will stay the pace.
  • Some manufacturers have now used the metal halide beam patterns to model their LED optic. This makes is simpler for the designer so but essentially the beam pattern, uniformity etc should be dealt with by them (or the manufacturer if they offer this service) and you should be able to rely on them for this.

If you can satisfy all these requirements then, when added to the benefits of digital lighting, you will have made a good decision that will last a long time.

When we (those of us over 40) think of an LED we tend to think of a little glowing diode on a pc board or electronic toy and register the fact the LED draws very little power.  While this may be correct for a single diode, when we ramp things up 10W of power is the same whether you’re powering a halogen bulb or LED.

OK so where is this power-consumption advantage of LED then?  And will I not get any benefit from changing over my old 2kW Metal Halide sports lights?

The answers lies in a number of factors which have to work together to make LED effective.  The key elements that the manufacturer has to blend are the following:

  1. Identifying the application
  2. Selecting an LED
  3. Designing an optic
  4. Designing the heat sink or housing
  5. Control of usage and dimming

The first point to consider when designing a lamp is what the application is.

Designing for the application

In a warehouse, the size of the lamp is not an issue as the roof space is generally a void.  Because the lights are running constantly, the user is more concerned about the power usage or efficiency.  For this user a high lumens/watt ratio is ideal as it means using less electricity.  Lights are therefore designed to have a large surface area and use lots of LED’s. Although this costs a bit more initially, the pay-back in power consumption easily justifies it.

Whilst this is good for warehouse lighting, it is not necessarily so for sports lighting or vehicle lighting.  Having a large and heavy light at the top of a 25m sports pole causes problems with ‘sail area’.  Much like a ships sails, these lights will cause resistance to the wind and put a lot of strain on the pole.  For instance, if you’re wanting to change from Metal Halide to LED, the poles at your club may have been designed for holding 10 lights weighing 20kg/each with a sail area of 0.8m2.  These are then replaced with 10 LED lights weighing 30kg/each and a sail area of 1m2.  We don’t have to be mathematicians to realise that we could well have an issue on a windy day!  Likewise having a very ‘energy efficient’ 350mm-diameter driving light on your 4WD is not going to look very cool or be very fuel efficient.

So as we said, the application is very important when designing a light and there is no best-fit for all industries.

Selecting the LED

Selecting the LED for a specific application is a complex problem.  There are hundreds of options on the market from dozens of manufacturers, covering the spectrum from 0.2W up to COB’s which can be over 50W.  As a rule of thumb, the less hard you drive an LED the brighter it glows relative to the wattage you put in.  This efficiency factor is called lumens/watt. So for instance a 5W LED may be producing 100 lumens/watt at 5W but if you run it at 2W it will produce 130 lumens/watt (Lumens being the measurement of light output against how many watts are put in).  Although the overall lumen value is less, the actual efficiency (or light output to current-draw) is much higher. Therefore if you run 5W LED’s at 2W you will get a high efficiency (lumens/watt).

The LED however just produces an intense glow of light and in itself has no control. For this we need an optic or reflector which will guide the light where we want it to go.

Designing an optic

This step is done in conjunction with the choice of the LED as they have to work together and is the most critical aspect.  Each optic or reflector is therefore optimised for a specific LED and this combination will determine the energy efficiency and light control.

As mentioned above LED’s themselves just produce a ball of light.  Harnessing this and guiding it exactly we it needs to go is the work of the optic.  There is three main ways to do this a) Total Internal Reflection optic b) Chrome reflector c) Combination of both.  There are pro’s and con’s for all three and we won’t go into that in any depth here.  Sufficient to say this control of the light decides whether to beam is going to be 5° wide and go 1km down the road, or 100° wide for a wide flood etc.  Sports lighting uses a combination of beam patterns for different applications.  The most difficult has proved to be the asymmetric narrow beam needed for large, field based sports like baseball, football, soccer and cricket.  Most manufacturers have taken the easy route of having a round beam pattern in a set number of angles.  However in big-field sports this proves to be very inefficient and can require up to 50% more power to achieve the same result as using a 2kW metal halide fitting.  Given that LED’s tend to be more expensive than metal halide, this can result in the project costing a lot more than you perhaps budgeted.

So, when you’re looking into this, be sure to get an IES lighting plan done before committing to purchase.  Many manufacturers will do this for a nominal sum, or even free, and is very important to make sure that you can achieve the right lighting levels without overloading your existing poles or ending up using twice the amount of electricity.

Designing the housing

Essentially this should be the simplest part of the design but is still very important.  The LED’s are working away and the optics are putting the light where we need it but unless we remove the heat effectively, the light isn’t going to last for very long.  On the other hand if we space the LED’s out and make large cooling fins, it will run very cool but will be too heavy to replace metal halide fittings one for one.

Designers use special software to model heat build-up and ensure that there is a balance between too much aluminium and sail area (like a ships sail) and being too small and risk overheating. Many high-powered LED sports lights weigh 2-3 times that of 2kW metal halides but are no more efficient.  Care needs to be taken to ensure that the poles have been designed to cope with the extra weight and sail area.

Control of usage and dimming

With digital LED lighting more options are available to us to save energy.  App based controllers are now available to interface with almost any lamp and can be used for pay-as-you-play, dim for training, get energy usage reports and much more.  These systems can have a rapid pay-back and take a lot of hassle out of managing the day to day problems of responsibility and maintenance.  Your lighting supplier would either have their own bespoke system or will have alliances with third party providers to offer a range of packages from simple to very complex.


So, in conclusion if you are wanting to install digital LED lighting for the energy efficiency, make sure that you are able to achieve this as it cannot be taken for granted.  If you are unsure we would recommend investing a few hundred dollars in getting a third party to cross-check that the lighting layout provided is accurate, as once the lights are up it could be an expensive mistake.  Suppliers should be willing to provide the IES files so this can be done.  Also use a lux meter to test what lighting you currently achieve and ensure that you have come-back on the supplier if minimum standards are not met.

We often hear in the press and trade magazines about the (supposed) benefits of LED lighting.  So the, what about the down-sides?  Is it really that amazing, and if so, why hasn’t every sports field in the country changed over yet?  Why are there new fields being made that still have the dreaded old technology metal halides?

Like all things in life you get good and bad products, and when choosing LED lighting for your sports club, or your latest design, there are a number of things to be aware of.  If you’ve ever been involved in an LED upgrade that’s gone wrong, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Weight and sail area

Most poles have been designed for metal halide fittings.  Whilst these are quite large, they are relatively light for their size.  Due to the way these bulbs work, all the heat comes out the front so there is no need for heat sinking.  By contrast LED’s generate heat out the back and therefore need a critical mass of aluminium to remove the heat from the LED’s and prevent them overheating.  This mass depends on the efficiency of the lamp and can tend to be very heavy compared to the metal halide.  Before swapping out make sure that the poles can cope with the weight, unless you have selected a lamp that can replace metal halide one for one.

Light pattern

Most LED’s have been designed with an optic that produces a round halo of light, compared with an asymmetric pattern found with most metal halides.  This can be very inefficient and you need to make sure that your existing light levels can be achieved with a similar number of modules (to prevent pole overload) and current draw (to prevent using more electricity).  Ideally find a lamp with an asymmetric pattern similar to the modules you currently have.  In this way you can be more assured of a good one-for-one switch over.

Angle of fitment

Most metal halides are designed to be mounted flat, or horizontal.  This ensures that there is a reduced chance of players being affected by the glare from the lamp as the lamp is ‘throwing’ the light forward.  With many LED’s the optic is designed such that the light is emitted directly out the front of the lamp.  This requires the lamp to be at a 20-45° angle, potentially interfering with the players’ sight during play, dazzling them if they look near the light from the wrong direction.  Ensure that the fittings are designed to be mounted horizontally (or a maximum incline of 10°) or make sure that the pole positions are placed such that it won’t affect play.  This, along with the beam pattern can also affect the amount of spill-light which can be annoying for neighbours.  Check this carefully when you have the lighting plan done.

Energy efficiency

As mentioned above it should not be assumed that LED will automatically be more energy efficient.  In many systems, more watts of LED power are required to match the light output achieved by a 2kW metal halide.  This needs to be checked once the lighting layout has been confirmed and required lux levels achieved.  Add up the amperage required as an upgrade to your power supply later is an expensive option.


Typically LED lighting is expected to last 50000 hours.  This is somewhat of an industry expectation but many never do. One of the primary issues is the drivers or power supply.  This is the ‘brains’ of an AC powered system and the quality of the driver is often the quality of the system. Check the brand and factory guarantee of driver as this is likely to be where problems occur.


LED’s are more sensitive to moisture than the rugged old metal halides.  The manufacturers will generally be offering a warranty of some description but the lamps should have a minimum of IP65 for water and dust protection.

Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

Metal Halide fittings naturally have a high CRI and so this high definition has largely been taken for granted.  With LED’s we have to choose what CRI is needed for the application and will range from 60 to 90+.  If the lighting is purely for training purposes, then almost anything will work.  However, for televised games and large capacity crowds, it is important to have a CRI of 90+ otherwise a lot of the detail will be lost through poor colour definition.

So, after knowing all these potential issues with LED is it really worth it?  The answer is definitely ‘Yes’ but research into which fittings you get is very important.  In short, it’s easier to get it wrong than to get it right.  Look into these aspects and once you’ve ticked them all off with confidence you’ll have a lighting system that will provide exceptional performance for many years to come.


Firstly, let’s get one myth out of the way.  That is the belief that LED automatically will be more efficient and longer lasting than their dinosaur relatives, metal halide.  As it turns out this more frequently false than it is true.  Now that’s not because LED is bad or inefficient, but in high-power applications like sport, there is a lot more science to it than most domestic or warehouse applications.  The big issue is the size of the field, along with the level of lighting required, making sports lighting the holy grail of LED lighting.

So, having got that out the way let’s look at the benefits you can expect to get if you choose the right LED light for your sports club.  We’ll also comment on some things to look out for to make sure you don’t end up with a red face at the next committee meeting.

One for one replacement

As it turns out the biggest expense is not the lights themselves.  The poles, electricity, trenching and control systems combined are all significantly more than the lights, although the lights tend to get the attention.  If you already have poles in place, look for a light that will allow you to utilise these.  This involves assessing the weight and sail area (surface area) to ensure there will be no additional load that hasn’t been allowed for in the original pole design.  Along with that is the beam pattern needs to be able to provide the same light as you currently have without increasing the number of fittings.  If you do increase them then the gross weight and sail area still needs to be the same as the original metal halide fittings.

Power usage or energy efficiency

As mentioned above, just being LED doesn’t make a sports lamp efficient.  In fact, in most studies and comparisons we have done, the LED’s required significantly more power when achieving a specific lux value than did their metal halide comparisons.  Because this will vary based on the beam pattern, the safe way to do it is to get the design layout done to the required lux and then you can easily compare power usage.  To be fair to LED, just make sure you are getting the new design to the same level of lighting as what you currently have, rather than what you would like to have and assume you have.  This needs to be done with a lux meter such as Lux Light Meter Pro for iOS or Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android.





Low or No Maintenance

For those who are tired of replacing metal halide lamps every year, this aspect is a major bonus.  Assuming you are buying an LED with a good quality driver (5 years guarantee should be normal) you should not have to do anything other than occasional cleaning, for years.  The LED modules are built as a system and there is basically nothing that can be done.  So for those who have had to hire cherry-pickers, scissor lifts and the like, this is a genuine saving.

Superior definition

With having a range of LED chips to choose from, the lighting can be customised to suit your needs and budget.  If the ground is being used for training then 70 CRI is adequate.  If the field is used for international games that will be televised, then 90 CRI is a must.  LED gives you this flexibility but has to be thought through before purchasing as there is no quick-fix once the modules are in place.

Instant On

Ever had the power cut during a game (when using metal halides) and had to wait 10 or 15 minutes for them to come on again?  This can be frustrating to say the least and is another issue that is totally removed with LED.  The modules start instantly and even when soft-starting, will be up to full power within 5 seconds.

Digital Control

Does your club accountant ever complain about electricity bills and how the lights have been left on overnight, or why do we have to use full power for training?  With digital lighting, there are many apps and control systems that allow you to give access to different members via SMS codes, pre-set lighting levels for training vs games, auto-off, remote checking etc.  All this gives you greater control and transparency and also opens up options of pay-to-play to help fund the running expenses.  Also, being digital, there is much more that can be done with the lighting system to make it multi-functional so the facility can be used for other functions, beyond sport.

So, whilst it’s not a given that LED is going to improve your bottom line, there certainly are a lot of benefits if it’s researched properly and the right decision is made.