Whilst watching Premier League highlights Chelsea’s game against Everton, I wondered whether the club had suffered some sort of pre-match power cut. Stamford Bridge was in complete darkness as the players made their way out onto the pitch.
It turns out the floodlights hadn’t failed and that Chelsea had in fact installed a brand new LED lighting system that makes them only the second club after Southampton to use the new technology. It allows clubs to completely turn off the pitch lighting, creating more of an atmosphere before kick-off. Unlike conventional floodlight systems, turning the lights on and off is instantaneous, meaning Chelsea can create more of an atmosphere before the game kicks off.
For the visit of Everton, the lack of light was accompanied by the sound of a heartbeat echoing around the arena. Not only is this something that hasn’t been seen in England’s top flight before, it helps to create the kind of atmosphere often lacking in modern football. Without making it too much of a superbowl-esque, firework bonanza before kick-off; Chelsea can use the system to almost intimidate the opponent, adding a new advantage to a home fixture.
This new technology will surely take off in the next few seasons, especially now that the Premier League has secured a lucrative television rights contract, meaning that the Premier League will become even more of a spectacle for fans all over the world. The lighting system is purpose built to provide an excellent viewing experience for both the fans in the stadium and the ones watching the game at home.
Pre-match lighting shows may become more commonplace if other clubs want to give their stadiums an extra edge in terms of atmosphere. Although the system has only been introduced, it shows the direction the league is moving in, putting on more of a show before the game and possibly during half-time as well.
This new system may split opinion, with some probably preferring more of a traditional approach to attending matches. What is important is that clubs do not abuse the system through commercialisation and other advertising opportunities. If it is used purely to create a better atmosphere, it will only provide more drama and excitement for fans before the game. With West Ham moving into a new stadium and Liverpool boosting the capacity of Anfield, Premier League teams are really starting to grow in stature, with stadia a key feature of club development.
Obviously, nothing will ever beat the real atmosphere that takes place during a football match, but new technology will undoubtedly improve the ‘buzz’ in some stadiums before kick-off. Chelsea have used the new system to good effect so far and if other clubs follow suit, there could be a good platform to attract more people to watch live football. Alongside the new £5 billion TV rights deal that will confirm the Premier League as the richest league in the world, the development of extra entertainment like the lighting system fans are already witnessing at Stamford Bridge could take England’s top flight to the next level.