Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

The Evolution of Undersoil Heating in Football

Undersoil Heating in Football
Image source: Rehau

Football fans often overlook the behind-the-scenes aspects of their favorite clubs. From the dedicated security staff to the hardworking caterers, these unsung heroes play vital roles. One aspect that deserves recognition is the technology that keeps matches going, even during the harsh winter months – undersoil heating.

Before Undersoil Heating

Playing Football in the Snow

Before the invention of undersoil heating, football clubs faced numerous challenges during cold weather. Matches were either played on freezing pitches or abandoned until conditions improved. However, as clubs began charging entrance fees, they realized that abandoning matches meant losing revenue. They attempted various methods to prevent the pitch from freezing, such as placing bales of hay on the pitch. These methods proved ineffective and often made the pitch resemble a farmyard.

In the 1970s, undersoil heating gained popularity. Different clubs adopted various heating methods, including installing large pipes beneath the turf to run hot water and using expensive giant tents known as “poyspheres.” Despite these attempts, undersoil heating had not yet become commonplace.

The Introduction of Undersoil Heating

Goodison Park
Image source: BiloBlue at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Everton, known for their forward-thinking approach, became pioneers in undersoil heating installation. In 1958, they lifted the Goodison Park turf and installed around thirty kilometers of electric wire. The system cost the club £16,000 initially, and further expenses arose when the drainage system struggled to handle the increased water from melted snow and frost. Everton had to relay the pitch in 1960 to accommodate a new drainage system.

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However, the success at Everton did not immediately prompt other clubs to follow suit. Arsenal installed an electric system in 1964, while Leeds United adopted undersoil heating in 1968. Surprisingly, Liverpool did not install their system until 1980.

Premier League Rules

Olympic Stadium Munich
Image source: M(e)ister Eiskalt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Germany, the Bundesliga requires clubs to have undersoil heating. The first installation took place in Munich’s Olympic Stadium in 1972. However, the rules in the English Premier League are less stringent.

The Premier League’s regulations state that pitches must have undersoil heating or “some other adequate system of pitch protection.” The English Football League has similar requirements. While these rules may seem vague, they aim to ensure that matches can be played under reasonable conditions.

Clubs have interpreted these rules differently. Some clubs have chosen to invest in undersoil heating, while others have opted for alternative systems. The wording of the regulations allows clubs to make their own decisions based on their requirements.


Q: Are clubs in the Premier League required to have undersoil heating?
A: The Premier League regulations state that pitches must have undersoil heating or an alternative adequate system of pitch protection.

Q: When did undersoil heating become popular in football?
A: Undersoil heating gained popularity in the 1970s, but its adoption varied among clubs.

Q: Which club was the first to install undersoil heating?
A: Everton installed the first undersoil heating system in 1958 at Goodison Park.

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Undersoil heating has revolutionized football by allowing matches to be played in all weather conditions. While the regulations surrounding its use in the Premier League may seem ambiguous, clubs have recognized the importance of ensuring playable pitches. As technology continues to advance, undersoil heating systems will likely become more widespread, benefiting both players and fans.

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