Have you ever heard someone use the term ‘football pitches' as a unit of measurement? We sure have. It's a strange thing to do though because football pitch sizes actually vary quite considerably. Here we look at the most common standards and the reasons why people opt for different measurements.
What size is acceptable for what?
The actual pitch perimeter
When you're talking about football pitch sizes there are several different aspects to consider. When you're looking at the actual perimeter of the playing field as a whole you've actually got a pretty wide range to choose from. Where the length of the pitch is concerned i.e running from goal to goal it has to measure between 100 yards and 130 yards; that's a differential of 30 yards. Then you have the width where the dimensions can differ by a staggering 50 yards. The minimum width stipulated under the laws of the game is 50 yards whilst the largest is 100 yards.
There are a few caveats within this detail though. The first thing to knock on the head is the width and length being of equal size i.e. having a square pitch. If you look at the allowed dimensions in isolation you might think you could have a pitch that measured 100 yards long by 100 yards wide because, in their own right, they are valid measurements. There is a separate rule, however, that ensures the length of a pitch must be greater than the width. The other point of note is that measurements must be consistent, which means both touchlines must be the same size; the same applies to the goal lines.
Can the other markings on a football pitch vary?
You'd be forgiven for questioning everything you've ever heard by now but, no, whilst football pitch sizes can vary the other markings on the pitch have to meet a set of specific guidelines and there is very little flexibility in there.
The penalty area
We'll start off with some of the more obvious markings. Take the penalty area for instance; pretty much everyone will know it has to be 18 yards out from the goal line. The same can be said for the six-yard box – it has to be six yards deep. What about the width though? Do they have to meet a certain standard? Yes, they do. The six-yard box has to be 20 yards wide with the 18-yard area obviously being wider. It measures 44 yards across.
The other markings
We've explored the penalty area already but, of course, there are other markings within the area too. Firstly, you have the penalty spot. A lot of people will know that the penalty spot has to be central to the goal and 12 yards out; fewer, however, will know there is a designated size the spot should be. What is it? The penalty spot should measure a nine-inch diameter. The final part of the area we want to talk about is the ‘D', which is the semi-circle that sits outside of the area; this marking only serves one purpose – to ensure any player taking a penalty has the appropriate room to take their run-up. The edge of the ‘D' must measure 10 yards from the penalty spot.
You have one final marking that has a significant impact on the area; you know, the corners. After all, they allow you to ‘get it in the mixer'. The corner quadrant – or quarter circle – has a size to meet as well. They need to measure a 1-yard radius.
Finally, there is one final set of markings to discuss; they dominate the centre of the pitch. Obviously, the halfway line has to sit an equal distance between the goals and run the whole width of the pitch but what about the centre spot and centre circle? You might have assumed the centre spot needs to match the penalty spot. If you did, you'd be correct; it spans a nine-inch diameter. The centre circle, which sits evenly around the centre spot, is also required to meet a set size; it has to have a 10-yard diameter.
Do these rules apply everywhere around the world?
To answer the question as to whether these rules apply everywhere we need to split it into two parts. With respect to the on-field markings such as penalty areas, corner sectors etc. the answer is yes. With respect of the actual football pitch sizes the answer is slightly more complex. The dimensions we mentioned earlier are as stipulated in the IFAB Laws of the game; for those not in the know, the IFAB decision makers includes the English FA and FIFA.
Here comes the exception to the rule; FIFA's own laws of the game document contains two sets of dimensions. The main wording ties up in accordance with IFAB but a secondary note relates specifically to international matches. Again, the pitch sizes come with an allowed range; it just happens to be smaller. The length of the pitch has to be between 110 and 120 yards whilst the width has fall between 70 and 80 yards.
With plenty of stadiums around the globe having a desire to host international football matches, it's common for pitches to comply with the sizes stipulated under the FIFA caveat.
Why do the rules allow a range of sizes?
The question of why football pitches differ in size can be answered in a couple of different ways. You can choose to look logically with respect to factors like stadiums forcing the hand of certain teams or you can explore the more tactical route. The second of these options is the one that gets the most attention. Typically speaking, teams that like to play expansive, passing football, for example, Barcelona and Man City, will have a bigger pitch whilst those teams that like to keep things tight and play a more ‘route one' style football will opt for tighter dimensions. It's all a matter of choice and varying styles – it's why we love the game so much.