Premier League Pitches: Not All Grounds Are Equal

This is a mind-blowing fact that too few football fans know about, especially international fans: not all football pitches are the same size in professional football. Crazy, isn’t it? We should all be able to guess that a five-a-side pitch is a lot smaller than an 11-a-side.

The idea that even in the Premier League, a league worth billions, with players earning many millions a year, doesn’t play its game on a level playing field, seems insane on the surface. The truth is, not only are most Premier League pitches a unique size, but this is also one of the best things about the game.

Laws of the Game

Across the whole world, not just the UK, football pitches vary in size and often massively. The IFAB (International Football Association Board) sets the standards for pitch sizes across the globe. Their regulations have been hugely influenced by the English FA’s rules, which were established in the early days of ‘association football’.

The regulations regarding football pitch size have never set specific dimensions for playing fields, only guidelines that each pitch must meet. There are only two steadfast rules; a football pitch must be rectangular, and full size goal nets must be used. That’s it.

Size Matters

In both IFAB and English FA regulations, a football pitch must be between 50-100 yards in width and between 100 and 150 yards in length, and rectangular. This is a huge variance. There are some good reasons for this, which you can appreciate if you take a look at football grounds across the UK.

Many of the country’s finest, oldest, and most legendary football stadiums are crammed into the middle of towns or cities with rows of houses surrounding the ground. There isn’t room to expand. Way back in the early days of football, these pitches were a patch of grass like a park in the middle of urban areas. The stadiums, and the clubs and communities, have grown around them and fenced them in. This meant that when the rules were established for association football teams, there needed to be some wiggle room on pitch sizes.

Champions of the League

This leads to an inevitable question: who has the biggest pitch? The Premier League is often seen as a battle between the biggest balance sheets, but there is also a lot of competition in Premier League pitch sizes. Funnily enough, it is not the wealthiest teams that have the biggest playing fields.

Nottingham Forest is the team with the biggest pitch, at a few inches over 115 yards long and 77 yards wide. There is not much in it though, with most other Premier League teams using a pitch just half a foot shorter and 75 yards wide. The smallest pitch next season will be Fulham’s, with their Craven Cottage ground squeezed in between streets in West London and barely 100 yards long and 71 yards wide.

Next time you are at a game, or watching one on TV, take a closer look at the dimensions of the pitch. The game may be played on a wider surface, or a narrow pitch that compresses play through the centre of the field. Not all pitches were made equal.