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Now LEDs light up big time sports grounds, as Chelsea Football Club makes the switch

Chelsea Football Club has yanked out the metal halide lamps at its 138-year-old Stamford Bridge grounds and replaced them with Philips’ ArenaVision LED floodlighting system, Philips said in a press release.

When Chelsea switches on the system for a night match against Spain’s Real Sociedad on Aug. 12, it will mark ‘the first UK football game under LED floodlight conditions,’ Philips claimed, although another club, Southampton, is also expected to soon start using LEDs for field lighting. Both teams play in the ‘Premiership,’ which is England’s top football league.

Although vendors frequently promote LEDs for their energy saving quality in areas such as home lighting, the Chelsea system is not expected to include that among its benefits. While theLEDs require less electricity than metal halides, Philips is providing a lighting scheme that is much brighter than the old one, offsetting the energy advantages, a Philips spokeswoman explained to Lux.

‘But there are long term benefits in terms of the longer lifetime of LED lights,’ she noted. Philips said the bulbs in the new system should deliver required lighting levels for over 10 years, compared to 3 years for metal halides, thus reducing maintenance costs.

The company also emphasized the new lighting quality and brightness, which it said would, among other benefits, improve viewing by fans in the 40,000-plus-seat stadium, and help support high definition TV broadcasts by avoiding flickering in super slow motion replays.

Chelsea will also now be able to switch on lights without having to warm them up, which metal halides require. A new control system will also support flexible lighting schemes and ‘can also be used to create special entertainment lighting effects that would normally require dedicated stage-lighting,’ Philips said, adding that Chelsea could use the controls to build pre- and post-match atmosphere. 

‘Chelsea FC is the first top club in the world to have LED floodlight – we believe one or two smaller football clubs may have LED floodlights but this is absolutely the first from a premiership team,’ the spokeswoman said.

Philips declined to say how much Chelsea paid for the new lights, which took about three months to install during the club’s summer break, when Chelsea ripped out the earlier Philips system. Chelsea officials were not available to answer questions.

Whether or not the Stamford Bridge LED installation is an absolute first in stadium lighting is debatable. In the U.S., the retractable roof NRG Stadium in Houston, which is home to the Houston Texans American football team as well as to rodeo, concerts and other events, could soon become the first professonial American football venue to light its playing field with LED floodlights.

The stadium, owned by the local county but branded by energy company NRG, will also install solar panels to power the lights as part of a green overhaul.

An earlier version of this story appeard on Lux Review’s UK-focused sister site, Lux Magazine.

Photo:  Pitching in. These new LED floodlights at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium will begin lighting the pitch on Aug. 12. Image is from Philips.