How big is a football pitch?
If you’re wondering how big a football pitch is, you might be surprised to learn that there is no precise answer.
Football clubs are given considerable leeway when it comes to deciding how big their pitch should be.
The Laws of the Game state that a football pitch must be between 100 yards (90 metres) and 130 yards (120 metres) long and between 50 yards (45 metres) and 100 yards (90 metres) wide.
You see, quite a lot of leeway. Although a football pitch must be longer than it is wide, it still raises the possibility of a football match being played on an almost square pitch (101 yards long by 100 yards wide, for example) and this being perfectly acceptable within the rules.
As a result, governing bodies and national associations have attempted to bring a bit uniformity to the guidance on how big a football pitch should be.
How big is a football pitch in international football?
For international matches, FIFA has narrowed the scope on pitch size. It says pitches must be between 100 metres (110 yards) and 110 metres (120 yards) long and between 64 metres (70 yards) and 75 metres (80 yards) wide.
How big is a football pitch in English football?
In England, the Football Association has decided to encourage (though not enforce) a consistent pitch size, which it calls a national pitch size.
For adult football, the FA says a football pitch should be 110 yards long by 70 yards wide (in metric, this equates to 100.5 metres long by 64 metres wide. It also suggests the playing area should also incorporate a safety runoff area of six yards around the pitch, which makes the total recommended size 116 yards by 76 yards. The safety runoff area also allows for ample space for corners and throw-ins to be taken.
But this is guidance only and is trumped by the Laws of the Game, as indicated by this information on the FA’s website.
In the Premier League, the agreed pitch size is 105 metres long and 68 metres wide. According to the league’s own rules:
Unless otherwise permitted by the Board, in League Matches the length of the pitch shall be 105 metres and its breadth 68 metres.
But the Premier League Board does regularly permit alternative dimensions to be used. The rule for doing so states:
The Board shall only give permission to a Club for the dimensions of its pitch to be other than as set out in Rule K.15 [the rule shown above] if it is impossible for it to comply with Rule K.15 due to the nature of the construction of its Stadium.
Many of the clubs in the top flight do have permission to have a pitch that differs from the Premier League’s official pitch size. The rules go on to state the a club cannot change the dimensions of a pitch mid-season. In other words, it must host all opponents on a pitch of a consistent size.
How big is a football pitch in the Champions League?
At first glance, UEFA does not seem to have a great deal of interest in pitch size. Its Champions League regulations make no mention of pitch dimensions and its pitch organisation graphic focuses mainly on the placement of cameras.
But did a little deeper and it becomes clear that European football’s governing body is actually one of the most prescriptive in the world. For Champions League participation, it demands teams have what it classes as a category 4 stadium.
One of the requirements of a category 4 stadium is a pitch that is 105 metres (115 yards) long by 68 metres (74 yards) wide.
How big is a football pitch in grassroots football?
Given that the FA’s national pitch size is only a recommendation, how big a football pitch you play on or watch your team play on from week to week might be vary dramatically.
Of course, it is in grassroots and Sunday League football that there are the biggest variations in pitch size. How big a football pitch is in amateur football will often depend on the space available. The shape of the patch of grass in question, the preferences of a local authority’s line marker and the number of pitches being squeezed into the same area are among the factors that might have an impact on the size of the pitch.
That said, if the match is competitive and being played under the remit of a local football association, the pitch should fall within the minimum and maximum pitch size outlined within the laws of the game.
Football pitch size as a tactic
The flexibility over pitch size within the laws of the game comes from necessity. For a game that is played all over the world and has grown organically over more than 150 years, being too prescriptive over the pitch size would be impractical. Places were football has been played for decades might by rendered illegal if the laws were to give a fixed football pitch size.
But while the wriggle room comes from those practical considerations, football being football, the scope for different pitch sizes has frequently been used as a tactic over the years.
Is your team planning on parking the bus? A shorter pitch can significantly reduce the space between defence, midfield and attack, making it easier to get men behind the ball and defend your goal.
Have you got a flying winger or two in your squad? Then you can get the groundsman to take the touchlines as wide as the laws allow. Now the opposition full-back is really isolated against your pacy wide player, who has plenty of room in which to wreak havoc.
Or maybe you’ve got a speedy striker and you’re going up against a fierce rival with ageing centre-backs. In that case, you might stretch the pitch out to make the pitch a few yards longer. Your team have plenty of space in which to put through-balls to the speed merchant. And there’s an increased area for the opposition defence to cover, which is likely to force them back towards their own penalty area.
And tactical changes involving pitch size are not always premeditated. Sometimes the tactics will be dictated by the pitch size. For example, if you’re the coach of a team whose home stadium happens to have a narrow pitch (and not enough room to make it any wider), you are unlikely to settle on a formation that is dependent on your wingers have lots of room to go on mazy dribbles. The chances are it’s going to be very easy to crowd them out and make them less effective.
Examples of pitch size impacting playing style and vice versa
As we touched on above, there are plenty of examples of football clubs and managers attempting to use the size of a pitch to their advantage. Usually this takes the form of managers tinkering with the pitch dimensions in order to suit their style of play or stifle opponents. Here are some prominent examples of football pitch size impacting on a team’s playing style.
Prior to their move to a new stadium, former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino had blamed the close confines of White Hart Lane for some of his side’s failings. The Argentine boss claimed a small pitch was stifling his team’s expansive tactics.
According to The Guardian, speaking after a home defeat to Newcastle United in 2014, Pochettino said: “Our style means we need a bigger space to play because we play a positional game.
“It’s true that White Hart Lane is a little bit tight and it’s better for the opponent when they play deep. On Sunday there were two shots from Newcastle – it was unlucky for us. And they play deep. West Bromwich play deep, Liverpool the same, they play very deep and it was difficult for us.
“We need time to adapt to our new set-up and to understand better our position on the pitch.”
Our tactical review of that match noted that Newcastle had easily been able to contain the Tottenham wingers, even as the home side chased the game.
Whether the onus was on Pochettino to adapt his style of play according to the pitch size is up for debate. What is true is that Spurs did have the joint-shortest pitch in the Premier League at that time at 100 metres long.
Another of the clubs with a 100-metre long pitch at the time was Stoke City, who also had one of the narrowest pitches in the top-flight at the time. When they were first promoted, the pitch was just 64 metres wide. If you consider that the Potters had initially made their mark in the Premier League with long throw-ins that landed at the heart of the opposition penalty area, and that then manager Tony Pulis favoured a rugged and direct style of play that unsettled ‘fancier’ opponents, the benefits of a smaller pitch immediately become clear.
In fact, Stoke had deliberately ‘shrunk’ their pitch down after securing promotion to the Premier League. The small playing surface was a deliberate tactic as they prepared to welcome more illustrious opponents to what was then the Britannia Stadium. The Potters confirmed to local newspaper the Stoke Sentinel that the changes to the pitch dimensions had been made on Pulis’ instructions.
After qualifying for the Europa League just two years later, the Potters played with two separate visible pitch markings: the regular one for Premier League games and the extended ones for European games.
The Sentinel recalls on occasion on which right-back Ryan Shotton took a throw-in from the ‘wrong’ touchline.
Pulis was not happy with the club’s acceptance of UEFA’s pitch size directives.
He said at the time: “When Everton play in Europe they don’t extend their pitch and when Liverpool play in Europe they don’t extend theirs either, but we take notice of Europe and we have to do that.
“(For the next league game) we will have the pitch the same size as we’ve had it for the last three years in the Premier League. It’s a size that suits us as it lets us to play close together as a team, particularly for the wide players.”
Premier League rules subsequently enforced a new minimum pitch size, so the playing surface increased to 100 metres x 66 metres. In 2017, then manager Mark Hughes pushed the dimensions out to 105 metres x 68 metres to suit a new expansive style of play, which didn’t pan out as hoped.
He might have expanded the pitch at Stoke, but Mark Hughes was not opposed to shrinking it either. A notable example of his propensity to change the pitch dimensions comes from his time in charge of Wales.
Hughes’ side were hosting Brazil in a friendly at the Millennium Stadium in May 2000. Faced with the prospect of sending his team out to face one of the best teams in the world on the sizeable pitch of the relatively new arena, the Wales boss opted to take decisive action.
Given that his game plan involved asking his players to apply pressure to the likes of Rivaldo and Cafu, Hughes decided to make the distance the Wales team had to cover a bit shorter.
According to The Guardian, speaking the day before the game, Hughes said: “I want it to be to our advantage, not to the opposition’s advantage.
“I have also looked up the regulations to see what the minimum width is and have asked for the pitch to be made smaller.
“It did look a very big pitch and with me asking the players to work hard and get about opponents all over the ground, that would make the job a little bit more difficult.”
Hughes also deployed the age-old tactic of leaving the grass long in an effort to slow the Brazilians down.
You can see the two teams at work, a considerable distance away from the crowd, in the image below.
Despite the pitch adjustments, Brazil still left the Millennium Stadium with a 0-3 victory.
Latter day Arsenal are renowned for their passing game. For a passing game to work as effectively as possible, you want you players to be able to find plenty of space.
It should come as no surprise then that the Gunners have one of the biggest pitches in the Premier League. At 115 yards long by 74 yards wide, the pitch at the Emirates Stadium is considerably bigger than the national pitch size suggested by the FA. It’s also the prescribed pitch size allowed by UEFA in European competition.
Which begs the question: was Arsene Wenger’s move towards tiki-taka football inspired by Barcelona’s success or the increased space available to his players following the move from Highbury?
Wenger had previously complained about the Gunners’ compact home. Speaking at the peak of his powers in 2002, the Frenchman said: “There is something about the size of the pitch at home,.
“It’s tight and, of course, we have a dynamic way of playing, everybody defends well and we are a team who put opponents under pressure, so there is more physical contact.
“On a bigger pitch, you have less contact. It is certainly linked with that. Highbury is very compact.”
That is perhaps one explanation for the compromises Wenger was prepared to take in order to facilitate the big move to the Emirates Stadium.
Former Rangers manager Graeme Souness has previously discussed the measures he took to curtail Dynamo Kyiv’s attacking threat – and specifically the runs of left winger Oleh Blokhin – ahead of a 1987 European Cup tie.
According to The Blizzard, Souness said: “The pitch didn’t have to be a fixed width as long as it was above a certain minimum, so I thought: Right, I’ll make it the absolute minimum.
“On the Tuesday afternoon the Kyiv players trained on the pitch when it was the normal size. On the Wednesday night they came out for the match and must have been shocked to discover that, after 15 paces, they were on the touchline. It wasn’t purist stuff but it was within the rules.”
It was also very effective. Blokhin sufficiently restricted, Rangers overturned a 1-0 deficit from the first leg to win 2-1 on aggregate following the Ibrox pitch shenanigans.
In the photo above, you can see Souness giving a broadcast interview while standing on the ‘old’ touchline. The touchline for the Dynamo game can be seen a few paces behind him, which gives a good indication of the amount of space that was taken away from Blokhim for the evening.
What is the biggest football pitch in the Premier League?
Given what we have been discussed about pitch sizes being adapted to suit tactics, the home of English football’s biggest pitch should come as no surprise. That’s right, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium has English football’s biggest pitch.
Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka style is assisted by a pitch that is 116 yards long by 77 yards wide – plenty of room in which for City’s midfield schemes and pacy attackers to set about their work.
The next biggest pitch belongs to their rivals Manchester United. The playing area at Old Trafford is also 116 yards long, but is a yard narrower at 76 yards.
The Etihad Stadium pitch is even bigger than the famously energy-sapping pitch at Wembley, which is 115 yards long by 75 yards wide (slightly narrower than the pitch at the old Wembley).
What is the smallest football pitch in the Premier League?
The smallest football pitch in the Premier League currently belongs to Sheffield United. Due to the constraints at Bramall Lane, the Blades were given permission to play in the top flight with a pitch that is just 112 yards long by 72 yards wide, which is the narrowest pitch in the division.
The shortest pitches in the league belong to Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Liverpool (all 110 yards long). The tight environment at Selhurst Park and Anfield – two of the oldest stadiums in the league – account for the smaller pitches at those grounds.
All are well short of the Premier League’s official pitch dimensions of 115 yards by 74 yards.
Age group pitch sizes
Everything we’ve discussed so far relates to the pitch size for adult football. But there are smaller pitch sizes prescribed for age group and small-sided football matches.
The biggest changes to youth football pitch sizes came ahead of the 2013/14 season, when the small-sided match formats were introduced for under-7s and under-11s, with under-8s and under-12s following the season after.
At the same time, age appropriate goal sizes were introduced to put an end to tiny goalkeepers being persistently chipped in full-size goals.
Here are the recommended pitch sizes set out by the Football Association for youth football in England.
Mini-Soccer (Under-7 and Under-8)
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play five vs five on a pitch that is 40 yards long by 30 yards wide.
Mini-Soccer (Under-9 and Under-10)
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play seven vs seven on a pitch that is 60 yards long by 40 yards wide.
Under-11 and Under-12
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play nine vs nine on a pitch that is 80 yards long by 50 yards wide.
Under-13 and Under-14
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play 11-a-side on a pitch that is 90 yards long by 55 yards wide.
Under-15 and Under-16
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play 11-a-side on a pitch that is 100 yards long by 60 yards wide.
Under-17 and Under-18
For this age group, it is recommended that teams play 11-a-side on a pitch that is 110 yards long by 70 yards wide, which is the same as the FA’s recommended national pitch size for adult football.
Why do football pitch sizes differ by age group?
A combination of smaller pitches and smaller-sided games is designed to ensure young players get more touches of the ball in youth football.
The measures are also intended to improve the quality of the play, with players able to deploy short passing and dribbling rather than chasing a long ball up a pitch of the same dimensions as those used by professional players.
Since the changes are relatively recent, we have not yet seen any effects of the new pitch sizes filter into the senior ranks.