Kees Klein Hesselink, international key account director at Signify Sports Business, explains how pre-game lightshows add quality entertainment to soccer stadia
How times have changed. I remember the days when pitch lighting was switched on an hour before kick-off and took at least 30 minutes to warm. Today’s LED pitch lighting is instantaneous and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium was one of the first in England to install this remarkable technology.
The main driver for clubs to switch to LED is compliance with the latest standards demanded by TV broadcasters and football federations. Only the highest quality lighting enables TV cameras to capture the amazing flicker-free super slow-motion action replays – where every bead of sweat and strained sinew is broadcast in glorious 4K ultra-high definition.
The ability to use the lighting in pre-match light shows is a huge added bonus – afforded by the ability to program individual LED lights to turn on and off rapidly, vary their intensity and sync them to music. Over just a few years, such entertainment has reached new heights as top clubs vie with each other to produce the most spectacular light show. Stadia such as Allianz Stadium (Turin, Italy), the Johan Cruyff Arena (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Wanda Metropolitan Stadium (Madrid, Spain) have all taken the art of the pre-match light show to another level.
These sophisticated multimedia spectacles turn the stadium into a backdrop for a highly choreographed piece of entertainment. Light can be used to isolate different parts of the pitch so when the team comes out, the players are bathed in a corridor of light. Even pitch-side advertising screens and large displays featuring team colors and bespoke images can be incorporated and synced to music, while steerable spotlights add to the excitement.
Being able to put on such a show is good for business as it increases a stadium’s appeal to host FIFA and UEFA tournament matches and as a multipurpose venue to host everything from monster trucks to music concerts.
At Signify we’ve lit numerous stadium facades from Perth Stadium (Western Australia) to the iconic Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). One of the most impressive is Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in Germany where 300,000 LED lights transform its 26,000m² façade into a giant canvas, which is completely controlled by software such as Interact Sports.
Today, soccer is no longer about 90 minutes of action. Arguably, the entertainment experience begins even before the light show as fans approach the stadium.