Why are many football stadium enthusiasts so keen on floodlight pylons? Sparingly used although essential to the development of the game since the 1950’s what draws a man to these electrical landmarks? I think the answer is just that, they are invariably the first sighting of a football ground when arriving in a distant town or foreign field for the initial time. Like viaducts, textile mills, canal locks they are also fast becoming somewhat redolent of bygone times.
Darwen FC claim to have staged the first ever football match under floodlights as long ago as 1878. Of course there was no national grid then so any use of artificial lighting would be battery powered and seemed dependant on luck rather than a sustainable power supply. Bramall Lane and the ground of Thames Ironworks, the forebears of West Ham United, also conducted early experiments with floodlighting.
That forward thinking innovator on the pitch, Herbert Chapman, also saw the light earlier than most when he had lights installed at Highbury in the 1930’s. However, Arsenal could not gain Football League sanction to use them. So once the authorities caught up some twenty years later it fell to Southampton to become the first club to “officially” use floodlights to stage a match. The friendly against Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic was a resounding success and electrical lighting was here to stay. It opened a new source of income for many clubs with European friendlies against exotic opponents becoming de rigueur in the 1950’s.
Sadly a modern trend with ever increasing stadium sizes that the traditional pylons at many grounds have been replaced by roof mounted lighting, Old Trafford, Elland Road and Anfield were among the first to ditch their traditional corner pylons. Newer builds like Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium and Wigan’s DW Stadium have thankfully been constructed with traditional corner pylons. There has also been a modern trend towards “stick” pylons replacing the big industrial looking pylons of “proper” grounds. To the purist these stick pylons are very much an anathema.
There are, of course, multiple different floodlight manufacturers and stadium architects, so the purpose of this article is to highlight some of the more amazing floodlight pylons from around the globe. Here are some of my personal favourites in no particular order.
Real Betis – Estadio Benito Villamarin (Spain)
Spartak Trnava – Štadíon Antona Malatinského (Slovakia)
MSK Zilina – MSK Stadion (Slovakia)
Erzgebirge Aue – Sparkassen Erzgebirgsstadion (Germany)
Las Palmas – Estadio Las Palmas (Spain)
Widzew Łódź – Stadion Ludwika Sobolewskeigo (Poland)
Carl Zeiss Jena – Ernst Abbe Stadion (Germany)
Bolton Wanderers – Reebok Stadium (England)
AIK Solna – Råsunda Stadion (Sweden)
Dynamo Moscow – Dynamo Stadium (old) (Russia)
Barakaldo CF – Estadio Neuvo Lasesarre (Spain)
FC Vysočina Jihalva – Stadion Jiráskové Ulici (Czech Republic)
Levski Sofia – Vasil Levski Stadium (Bulgaria)
Újpest Dosza – Szusza Ferenc Stadion (Hungary)
FC Hradec Králové – Všesportovni Stadion (Czech Republic)
FC Viktoria Plzeń – Štruncovy Sady (Czech Republic)
1.FC Slovacko – Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion (Czech Republic)
AS Trenčín – Stadion na Sihoti (Slovakia)
Hammarby IF – Söderstadion (Sweden)
Horsens – Arena Horsens (Denmark)