22nd June 2022

Answering your biggest questions about hockey lighting

One of the many great things about our partnership with England Hockey is that we get to hear first-hand what some of its members are thinking when it comes to lighting. And while those issues vary from club to club, some questions come up time and time again.

In this post, Patrick Daly – Midstream’s National Sales Manager – shares his responses to some of the most frequently asked questions from clubs across the country.

Are LED-based lighting solutions expensive? Can we afford to switch to LED?

With the current situation regarding energy prices and inflation, a better question might be whether you can afford not to. With the energy price cap lifting again October, we’re seeing some clubs expecting their running costs to double. For those using outdated, inefficient floodlights like metal halide ones, the case for change is going to be particularly strong.

“It’s also important to know that the cost of LEDs has fallen considerably over the past five years or so. Like any new technology, LEDs carried a premium when they first hit the market. But we’re now well beyond the tipping point, and LEDs are both cheaper overall and a lot more cost effective than other lights over the long term too.

Will LED lights really save us money? When will we start to see a return?

Absolutely. On many of the hockey projects I’ve worked on – probably the majority, in fact – replacing metal halide lights with LED ones means the club has halved their energy use. As you can imagine, that has an enormous impact on cost. Maintenance costs for LEDs also tend to be considerably lower.

“As to how quickly you’ll see a return, that varies from club to club. As a general rule, hockey clubs tend to see a faster return on their lighting investments than other sports. That’s due to the fact that they use more floodlights overall, and that they use them more often – so the energy savings mount up quicker. It’s not uncommon for clubs to start seeing a return within the first five years of use.

My lights are not working in one corner. Do I really need to replace them?

Probably, but not necessarily. The key factor at play here is something that we call ‘uniformity’. In any sport, but particularly in hockey where the game moves quickly and the ball can be hard to see, you want good uniformity because that means there won’t be parts of the pitch where light levels fluctuate – something that can be bad from a safety perspective.

The best thing to do in this case is speak to an expert. At Midstream, we always work with existing infrastructure whenever we can, because it’s more cost effective for the club. So if you have some lights that are genuinely fine and – more importantly – up to the same standard as the new ones that we’d fit, then as long as the uniformity doesn’t suffer then they may be okay to retain.

How often do I need to have my LED lights maintained or cleaned?

With LED lights, this largely comes down to the manufacturer. With our LEDs for instance, we offer a 10 year guarantee that covers you regardless of whether you carry out maintenance or not. We know that clubs are busy, and we know that they don’t need the extra hassle of having to meet certain requirements just to keep their warranty active. Some manufacturers do insist that you sign up to a service contract in order not to invalidate your warranty, so that’s always worth checking.

How often you clean your lights really comes down to how invested you are in keeping them in peak condition. We always recommend that you try to clean your lights every 2-3 years to keep them performing as their best. If you’re going to do that regularly, consider opting for a base-hinged mast to make things easier.

Should I think about light spill when planning my hockey lighting?

Particularly in England where hockey pitches tend to be based in highly populated areas light spill can be a big concern for clubs. Light spill is mainly the result of using the wrong fitting, or not using dedicated sports lighting. With purpose built lighting solutions, there are plenty of ways to ensure that they only illuminate what they should – cowls, shielding, hoods, mast height, and even fencing where necessary.

One of the other issues here is ecology, and specifically bats. As a protected species, there are lots of restrictions placed on anything that might disturb their habitat. For clubs with an existing lighting solution in place though, something dramatic would had to have changed between that previous installation and the upgrade for planning not to be granted. And we actually help a number of clubs through the planning process, too.

Should I think about light spill when planning my hockey lighting?

Particularly in England where hockey pitches tend to be based in highly populated areas light spill can be a big concern for clubs. Light spill is mainly the result of using the wrong fitting, or not using dedicated sports lighting. With purpose built lighting solutions, there are plenty of ways to ensure that they only illuminate what they should – cowls, shielding, hoods, mast height, and even fencing where necessary.

One of the other issues here is ecology, and specifically bats. As a protected species, there are lots of restrictions placed on anything that might disturb their habitat. For clubs with an existing lighting solution in place though, something dramatic would had to have changed between that previous installation and the upgrade for planning not to be granted. And we actually help a number of clubs through the planning process, too.

Do we have to replace our masts if we upgrade to LED?

This is an interesting question because the answer can vary based on the floodlights you choose. There’s a general perception that LED floodlights are big, heavy objects that need specific masts to support their weight. And, in a lot of cases, that’s true – which means that the club needs new masts as well as new lights.

The way that we build our LEDs at Midstream, though, means that they’re designed to mirror the size and weight of the luminaires that most hockey clubs already have. That means that we’re much more likely to be able to carry out what’s known as a ‘retrofit’ solution – one where we can retain the masts and just install new floodlights. For reference, that can save as much as 50% of the cost on a typical project.

Do sports LED lights come on instantly?

Yes they do, and that’s another good reason to switch from metal-halide floodlights. Once you switch a metal halide light on, it can take about 20 minutes to get up to its full lighting level, which is a waste of both time and power. What’s worse is that if you accidentally switch that light off, you then need to wait the same amount of time while it warms up again.

There are two other advantages here as well. Firstly, if your venue has a pitch that you hire out, you can just switch the lights off when there’s a gap between bookings. Alongside that, LEDs can also be dimmed for other sports that may not need as high lighting levels. Both of those things can help to save you money

Do we need to get our facility rewired for LED lighting?

In the vast majority of cases, you don’t. Because we’re typically reducing the amount of power needed to run a club’s lighting system, the cables they already have tend to be suitably sized to take new LEDs without any problem. All we normally need in that instance is an up to date Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) provide by an electrician to ensure that everything is as it should be. If clubs don’t have an EICR we can recommend a local electrican.

Generally, the only time this really becomes an issue is when a club is completely rethinking what they want their lighting to do for them. If they want to massively increase their lighting levels for instance, and they’ve only had relatively low-power solutions so far, they might need to look at some element of rewiring.

Find out more about about Midstreams Hockey Lighting or for any questions get in contact below.

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1st November 2021

The importance of partnerships for England Hockey

We’ve been working with GB & England Hockey as their Official Lighting Partner for five months now. So, we’ve asked Rich Beer, Development Director at England Hockey, to tell us more about the role partnerships play in the development of hockey in England.

Rich, how did you become involved in England Hockey and what’s your role there?

Firstly, I’ve always had some sort of involvement in the sport since picking it up when I was a teenager. After university, when I first started to look at a career my first role was at England Hockey as an Administrator. Then I moved away and worked for Oxford Sports Partnership. After that, I spent several years as the manager of the Senior Women’s International Hockey Team before moving to Sports England as a Relationship Manager. I came back to England Hockey when the Business Development Director role became available – so I’ve been doing this role now since 2013.

As the Business Development Director I basically oversee all the development activities the organisation does. At the moment, with COVID, my role is a bit broader with COVID guidance and looking after the competition team being in my remit.

Sitting in my department at the moment I have:

  • The competition team.
  • The workforce development team.
  • The facilities team.
  • The clubs team.
  • And the participation programme.

So, I’m really responsible for everything to do with trying to grow the team and the sport.

All the Directors at England Hockey are Executive Directors so I spend time sitting on the Board as well.

What’s England Hockey’s role in the sport? How does it feature and work?

We like to think we’re very close to our clubs and players and the ins-and-outs of the day-to-day working of the sport.

We’re undertaking a governance review and looking at the way the sport is structured and realigning our leagues and the way our competitions are run.

The clubs we work with every year, in one way or another, are direct members of EH – which is about 70% of England’s clubs which represent around 90% of our players. So we have a very close relationship with our clubs who run the most of the games – because it’s obviously a club based sport. The majority of where it’s played is either at clubs or educational institutions (schools, universities). So we like to think we’re very integral to the sport’s grassroots.

One thing to point out is that the most clubs don’t own their facilities – only around 10% do. The rest are owned by local authorities or by schools, colleges, and universities etc. This can present us with some problems though.

Despite our limited resources, we like to think we give as much support to our clubs as we can.

What sort of support?

We have three Facilities Relationship Managers who cover the work that goes on around facilities over the country.

There are around 1,000 pitches and the Facility Managers work on the playing pitch strategies that each local authority has to identify the needs for their area. That covers every single club in the country and their facility needs. We offer advice and support to these playing pitch strategies to make sure that, as far as possible, the right pitches are provided in the right places. Alongside that, we offer advice and guidance to anyone developing facilities.

The same is true across the breath of what we do. We train thousands of coaches every year with both face-to-face and online courses. We offer club forums where we get clubs together to talk about how to develop themselves and the sport. We run national knockout competitions and set up the framework through which junior and adult matches are run and delivered.

With the changes we’re making, we’ve taken overseeing the governance of the sport right down to a local level too.

One of the things we’re doing this year is developing a new game IT management system that all the fixtures and results will be organised through. This will massively streamline the amount of admin club officials have to go through.

So we do a huge amount to try to support clubs to develop themselves and their role in their communities.

The wider community?

The range and size of our clubs varies massively. Our largest club has on the way to 1,800 players. It’s run like a business and is out there developing the game in the community around it. Our support really focuses on trying to help clubs to be part of the local community and to develop themselves. Our clubs are highly motivated and do an outstanding job doing that.

We see everything really. The energy and drive of our coaches and volunteers, a mix of paid and volunteer roles, is incredible. The kind of things you see them doing? Open days, junior activities, school outreach work. We’ve got a programme around learning disability hockey called Flyers Hockey that’s being run by our clubs. There are around 50 Flyers Hockey clubs around the country being run by our passionate volunteers trying to make sure hockey is for everybody. So we have brilliant activities going on.

All clubs are on that developmental journey and there’s an amazing amount of effort going on into keeping the game thriving locally led by the clubs.

What’s your relationship with GB Hockey?

GB Hockey is a vehicle for the International Teams effectively. The way GB hockey works is it’s a company with a board that delegates the delivery of the Olympic teams to what is called the ‘nominated country’. This is whichever team is highest ranked and usually that’s England. For most of the time the current structure has been in place England has been the nominated country and England will lead the GB Hockey programme.

Do England Hockey pick the Olympic teams or is it a combination?

The coaches that are selected for the GB Hockey programme pick the squad and the GB Hockey board oversee the selection. The nominated country’s head coach is normally selected as the GB hockey head coach and we carefully manage and negotiate the politics of the selection.

You’ve already got lots of partners – what role are they playing in strategy development?

We’re currently going through a strategy review at the moment. What’s an absolute given is that the clubs and participation are at the heart of the game for hockey. And we have other ambitions around growing the visibility and profile of the sport and using that to grow participation. But clubs are at the heart of everything we do.

Like everybody we have resource challenges and the beauty of partnerships we’ve struck up is that they extend our expertise.

I think that’s the real opportunity of working together with partners like Midstream. Your specialist knowledge is something we haven’t got the capacity to have within ourselves. Being able to work closely with a partner allows us to mutually develop an understanding, knowledge, and expertise of a marketplace. On our own as EH we’d never be able to get to the level of detail we can with your support. That allows us to stay up to date with technological developments, guidance, and expectations which is a huge opportunity.

We have a great relationship with the FIH (International Hockey Federation) and Alistair Cox, the Facilities Leader there too. So between the relationship we have with Alistair, and our own relationships with our partners, we really feel we are able to give a lot more support to our clubs that we’d otherwise be able to.

Is it going well – any success stories?

The first thing we can be sure of is our team, who offer the first line of advice for clubs and facilities, is that they can go to partners such as Midstream with any challenges or issues they have. So I feel that our own team is being developed by these partnerships and that ultimately means the level of service to clubs is improving.

I think that in turn the partnerships can deliver things clubs need. Many clubs and organisations, like schools and universities, benefit from partners coming in and giving them advice and being on call. I think we’ve been able to work with partners to understand what the market needs. E.g. So working with Notts Sports and the FIH we’ve developed our Gen 2 programme. This is focused around giving clubs a choice away from the less environmentally friendly 3G surfaces that football is played on.

I think that these types of things are exactly what we want to strike up with partners like yourselves and deliver to improve our service and quality offering to our clubs and the hockey community.

Why did you choose Midstream Lighting?

Well firstly, it was a competitive process with other lighting suppliers in the mix. I think that’s healthy. It’s what business do. We were keen to find a company that shared our longer-term ambitions. That’s been key to developing relationships like the ones we have with other partners. We want to sustain a partnership for a very long time. We want partnerships that are built on the added value for both ourselves and our partners in the relationship.

I think that the discussions that were held with Midstream Lighting and our Facilities and Partnerships teams it was felt there was a good alignment with what we want to achieve. I think that was the most important thing for us. Midstream Lighting is our newest partner in the space but I think the ambition and ability to deliver shone through very strongly in the discussions.

Midstream Lighting - Official Lighting partner of GB & England Hockey

We want to build a brand awareness and trust within our community of our partners too. And so we wanted to make sure we were making the right choice. And the early days of this partnership is that there’s definitely the right intent on both sides of it – which I think is really positive to hear from the team.

How do you see Midstream Lightings role in supporting England Hockey?

I think firstly, from a direct perspective, the provision of lighting on synthetic pitches is mission critical. We’re a winter sport, people train in the evenings, matches are played through into the early evenings. So, in terms of maximising the capacity of facilities, lighting is vital and everybody needs it. The ability to provide that to clubs and give them good choices to allow them to ensure what is delivered is to a good standard and a good quality is essential. You can’t get away from the fact that we need lights and Midstream provides world-class floodlighting. A perfect match.

I think more broadly that the educational role that partners have around things like maintenance, choices, sustainability, and asset management are all things that add value and provide the support we need to give to our clubs and facility operators. We want to grow this and then we’d like to look, as the relationship develops, into more broad roles that MS can provide and play in the game.

Notts Sports, our sports surface partners, found a good way to operate in this space by building a brand relationship with clubs by supporting some of our programmes like Schools Championship. This gave them a good brand awareness but also gave them a chance to feel like they’re also really a partner with us on so many levels.

What are the challenges facing hockey clubs and yourselves at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges we faced came after the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Following our success there too many people were signing up to play. This meant many clubs needed to expand their capacity and facilities. It’s still a great challenge in the game for us as a whole.

The financial viability and sustainability of facilities, the ownership of facilities, the maintenance and standards of facilities are all at the heart of what clubs face every day and challenging. So it’s absolutely at the heart.

As I mentioned we’ve been, and still are, challenged with the conversion of pitches to 3G pitches where they need to be used for football.

But to move back to Midstream territory the quality of light at venues is a huge challenge. The maintenance of leisure centre contracts and the contracting out of facilities from local authorities is challenging where people are reaching the end of their contracts and don’t want to spend anything on improving things like lighting.

Generally in a university setting facilities are well maintained because of the budgets available. But when you’re talking about schools and local authorities, their budgets have been really squeezed in the last five to ten years. Despite the fact that many of our clubs have been paying £15,000 to £20,000 a year to rent out those facilities often they won’t have been suitably maintained. When you’re a leisure centre trying to keep a pool warm and the gym open, the outside space gets neglected.

So there are a huge amount of challenges we face and the more we can provide in the way of guidance, help, quick responses to challenges the better the game can carry on without getting interrupted.

How has COVID affected clubs and the sport? Do you think these partnerships can help?

Firstly we’re incredibly grateful for the support Sport England and UK Sports throughout the pandemic.

There’s no doubt COVID has ‘bitten’ everyone. We’ve come through it fairly well in the circumstances and our focus now is on recovery as much as anything.

But last season we cancelled all our league games and all our spectator events. We haven’t run a spectator event for two summers and the whole of last winter. So we’ve had a significant challenge there in terms of keeping the game going.

Our clubs have been amazingly resilient though. When they’ve been told they can play, they’ve got out there and played. We’ve given COVID guidance as quickly as we can and offered support.

In terms of the health benefits, physical and mental, the importance of people getting out there and playing team sports has been evident during this period. People have been desperate to get out there and clubs, particularly outdoor sports clubs like hockey, have when possible provided environments where people have felt safe.

We now need to concentrate the most on the opportunities COVID has presented to make improvements to the game. Improvements such as embedding our new governance changes and technologies we’ve invested in to help take the sport forward.

What’s that process going to be?

There’s a bit of waiting and seeing if there are going to be any more interruptions and how much this season will run normally. We’re all set up to run this season as usual. We’re out there selling tickets for events and trying to get the sport back on the go. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about international travel for our international teams, there are concerns about whether there will be further restrictions and things like that. We are waiting to see on some of them and constantly having to adjust our plans as we have for the last 18 months. But feeling resilient and focusing on the opportunities now.

What is the future of hockey in England going to be?

One thing I can be sure of is that, from a grassroots perspective, the clubs are incredible and the health they’re in and the work they do continues to drive hockey forward. This will go on because there’s such an outstanding infrastructure of clubs. There are local challenges and local issues but the core of clubs have developed incredibly robust and strong plans and are extremely ambitious about how they want to progress their clubs.

The game is very strong at a grassroots level. It all starts with the grassroots and that’s where our focus is and should be.

We’re changing our talent programme too. So whilst we think we’ve had great international success, we think we can and we want to be even better. We’re looking to develop a slightly more club based talent model. This will be based on leanings we’ve taken from other team sports internationally, not just hockey.

We’ve got some really ambitious plans to keep moving the sport forwards and growing through to a sustained period of international success

Sports in your life

I went to a state school where you played a few sports, but not that many. We played a lot of basketball for example because the teacher liked it. So, most of my personal experience has been from joining sports and playing in the local community.

I grew up playing ball sports with some friends on the outfield of the cricket club my dad played at for the local working men’s club in the middle of Swindon. I’d even play for the Extra 2nd team when they were short of players.

When I was 13, I decided to try something different and got into hockey. I was hooked. I’ve played all through my school days right through to university. After university I played at my local club in Oxford where I ended up as chairman at a very young age. That’s the brilliant thing about hockey. It’s so inclusive. When I was fourteen and played for the 4th team in Swindon there was a guy in goal aged 78.

I personally feel strongly that sport in the community is really important. It’s where you meet people from different backgrounds. If you only play sports at school, you don’t end up with the memories and stories that will stay with you for a lifetime. Local clubs help develop communities and your own understanding of life.

And finally… how was the Olympics for you?

It was weird watching the Olympics being held from behind closed doors. When I was the Women’s International Team Manager, I went to the 2010 Commonwealth Games which was amazing. My current role though doesn’t require me to attend events like this in person though now.

I think it was very different and hard to be there in Tokyo for the athletes and everyone involved this time around. But they went there with the mindset that it was the right thing to do – which I think was the right approach to have.

The women’s hockey team now having won medals in the last three Olympics is unbelievable. As a nation, we rarely do well in team sports – outside of cycling. So, the team’s achievement is phenomenal.

Rich Beer Development Director, England Hockey
Rich Beer, Development Director at England Hockey

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March 19th 2021

The importance of facility partnerships for England Athletics

We’ve been working with England Athletics (EA) as its Official Lighting Partner for six months now. So, we’ve asked Ed Hunt, Facilities and Planning Manager at EA, to tell us more about the role partnerships play in the development of athletics in England.

Ed, what’s your role at England Athletics involve?

I support the UK’s stock of athletics facilities by providing guidance and support in terms of things like sustainability, maintenance, good practice. I advise on the design and build of new, innovative athletics and running facilities too.

I also manage TrackMark – UK Athletics’ facility accreditation scheme. Its aim is to make sure all facilities meet certain standards across key areas including safety, rulebook compliance, and accessibility. So, again, it involves giving advice and guidance to facility operators across the UK and pointing them in the direction of approved suppliers like Midstream.

What sorts of challenges are these facilities facing to reach these minimum standards?

Good question… To give some context, the vast majority of synthetic track and field facilities in the UK were built in the 1980s and early 90s. This means there’s a lot of facility stock out there that’s over 30-years old. Looking purely at the synthetic track surface of these aging facilities, they typically need to be resprayed every seven years and fully resurfaced every 25 years. In the UK we estimate that around 50% of track stock has not been resprayed or resurfaced for at least ten years. This is a big challenge, but one that we are starting to address with the TrackMark programme.

It’s not just about the track of course. We look at all the elements that make up the field of play for track and field athletics, and floodlighting is absolutely an essential part of that. Competitively we’re a summer sport, but we’re a participation sport all year round. To support the continued development of our sport we need 365 days a year floodlighting provision that meets minimum safety standards. However, akin to track surfaces, the floodlighting at many venues has reached, or past, its operating lifetime. Depending on what type of floodlighting it is, particularly old systems like Metal Halide floodlighting, it’s almost certainly not delivering the minimum standards needed across the whole track and infield.

Our ambition as a sport isn’t to build lots of new 400m tracks – in most areas of the UK we have good coverage already. Critically, it’s about bringing that 30-year old stock up to the right standards.

What role does EA play with, not only the athletics clubs but, the wider community too?

We’ve got a team of Club Support Managers who work very closely with our member clubs and the local communities. Their job is to support clubs and make sure members and visitors have a great experience when they visit the track. Volunteer clubs are the driving force of athletics and they do far more than just deliver track and field coaching programmes. They also reach out to the local community to offer opportunities for everyone – from school-based activity to Couch to 5k. The work that our member clubs do is incredible and forms the bedrock of our sport.

Lockdown has shown us there’s a real appetite out there amongst a lot of people to get involved with running and athletics. It’s an easy access sport – it’s outdoor, and at its most basic level all you need is a pair of trainers.

I remember presenting at a conference once and I asked the delegates what their personal barriers to participation in running were. Their answers were pretty universal. Safe, well-lit routes. I responded by saying that the vast majority of them lived within 20 minutes of their local running track – a safe, well-lit venue with a consistent, forgiving surface!

We’ve got to get people over the hurdle of thinking track and field facilities are purely domains of the elite. They’re not. They are there for everyone. That’s not just about how we market, brand, and sell them. It’s also about how they look and feel and how we present them. For example, do tracks always need to be multi-lane 400m ovals? Can we look at new, and different ways of attracting more people? As an example, my local club is a safe, well-lit place to run. It’s got a 400m standard track but also an 800m cinder track running around the perimeter. This is a great alternative for a traditional track and a facility that’s heavily used by those starting out on their athletic journey.

Looking at the facility partner programme itself, what was the premise for it, how is it working so far, and what are the benefits it brings?

Since TrackMark was introduced in 2018, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of track surface refurbishments, track repairs, and floodlighting repairs and upgrades. But, to take it to the next level, we felt it would be ideal to partner up with companies in each of these three key areas. We wanted and needed to find partners who shared our strategic view in terms of the importance of facilities and creating models of provision that are both inspiring and sustainable. Partners that could help us to educate, increase awareness, and unashamedly speed along our drive to achieve minimum standards across all venues. When you have a group of partners working in the same direction, you can pull ideas together and create ready-made solutions to support athletics facility operators and clubs.

It’s all about that shared vision and the synergy between us, and how as one we can move facilities forwards – old and new. Giving people easy access to that knowledge and information is vital in all walks of the business. These partnerships really help us connect with people. It’s helping venues feel safe in what they’re committing to. There’s a real feeling with them that ‘If England Athletics back this, it’s got to be okay.’. The way that our partners are working together, both to inform of opportunities and collectively provide solutions to problems has been brilliant.

Our overall goal is to create a network of local, accessible, sustainable, and inspiring facilities for every person in England. Wherever you live, you’ve always got a local place to go to. Not an ‘Olympic’ stadium necessarily – but somewhere to run, jump, and throw all year round. Lighting is integral to that.

Sustainability has to underpin every facility model. So, just jumping back to my role, some of what I do is making sure we have the right facilities in the right places, and for many areas a 400m track is not appropriate and/or sustainable. However, a synthetic, floodlit running loop around a playing field may provide a perfect solution for some local clubs and communities. Our ambition in the UK is that everyone is within a reasonable distance of some form of athletics facility. For that, as I’ve said, we need good lighting.

Can you tell us more about how important a role has lighting got in delivering that?

It’s got a hugely important role. One of the first questions I ask when working with a client on a new facility project is ‘Have you thought of your lighting?’. Firstly because it’s vital, and secondly because of the importance of gaining upfront planning consent.

The right floodlighting is absolutely essential. Sport England recognises this. We recognise this. If there’s no adequate lighting at, or planned for, a venue how can it function during the dark, winter months? How can you possibly continue and have a sustainable programme of athletics development if you only use it in the summer months? People want that safe, lit place throughout the year – including the winter. If there’s no lighting plan for a facility development, then it’s pretty much a nonstarter for us and Sport England too.

Aside from the whole sustainability requirement, good floodlighting also enhances the whole experience. Who doesn’t like sports under lighting – either as a competitor or spectator. I used to be an 800m runner and there was nothing like racing under lights at the end of an evening. It was always a special feeling.

We recently worked with you to produce your Athletics Lighting Guide. How important is the educational aspect to yourself and the venues?

Very important. There’s a mystique to lighting. Not enough people know a lot about it. They probably think that as long as the lights come on when they flick the switch everything must be working okay. But it’s important everyone knows about the minimum standards of things like uniformity and lux levels across a whole track and field.

The British Standards’ guidance and documents aren’t the easiest to read and understand. So, what we needed was to make things as simple as possible for operators and clubs. A single, straightforward guide that explained everything in a concise fashion that would help them understand the importance of good lighting in terms of safety and user experience. Something that would let them make their own, quick audit of their facilities easily. Our guide does exactly that. It was only brought out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve already had a lot of positive feedback from both venue operators and clubs. Even World Athletics asked me for a copy!

For me, this clearly shows that there’s an appetite for educational support like this. Anything we can do with you to educate and improve awareness of lighting has got to be a good thing. It’ll help to make sure that when venues are looking to build or improve their facilities, appropriate lighting is placed front and centre of the project because the venue will truly understand its importance.

How has COVID affected England Athletics, the sport, and clubs?

Ask me again in six months. Seriously though, there was a lot of concern when the pandemic started and lockdown #1 began last March. I guess like many other sports we wondered what both the short-term and medium-term impact would be.

Fortunately, akin to other sports like golf and tennis, we were deemed a ‘safer’ sport and were released relatively early from lockdown early last summer. This meant we were able to put on 300 competitions last year, unlike a lot of other sports. Club-managed venues were absolutely at the forefront of this success. Although small in number, only 10% of athletics facilities are club managed, they were trailblazing in terms of getting the doors open and getting athletes running, jumping, and throwing again as soon as we came out of lockdown. I’m sure it’ll be the same again this summer as we hopefully approach something that resembles normality.

The challenge then, and now, is that the majority of track and field facilities are either local authority, leisure trust, educational, or commercially managed – with larger indoor facilities such as swimming pools and gyms. Throw in the fact that many leisure/sports venue staff remain on the Government’s furlough scheme and this creates a real air of uncertainty about when all athletics track venues will reopen.

We’ve done alright though compared to other sports like swimming who’ve been totally locked down for over a year. As a sport, we’ve tried really hard to engage with our members and those interested in running and athletics and throughout lockdown. For example, we’ve used the power of the digital age to run webinars and create content that encourages people to stay fit and active and enjoy the benefits of our great sport. I’m sure that when the summer finally comes that we will hit the ground running. There’s a real desire at clubs to get on with things again. To get training, events, and competitions going – even if it’s just at a local level to start with.

In terms of capital improvement work, you’d reasonably anticipate there being a downturn in work. But surprisingly, and really positively, this has not been the case. Indeed during the past 12-18 months, there’s been a significant uptick in capital improvement works. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that many venues have used these lockdown periods to take stock of their facilities and plan much-needed improvement work.

What’s the next big milestone the athletics community looking forwards to?

The Tokyo Olympics is one obviously, fingers crossed, and what it’ll do for the profile of athletics. Personally, I genuinely think though that the most exciting milestone for the majority of people will be that first club night. After over a year of not training or socialising with fellow club members, and coaches it’ll mean the world for so many people – athletes, coaches, and parents. It will for me, and I can’t wait.

Tell us a bit about your personal athletics history.

I’ve been a keen runner since school. I started out in 800m and 1,500 and have gradually worked my way up to a marathon runner. In the 2000s I completed ten marathons, including London, Amsterdam, Dublin, and New York.

My marathon days are probably behind me now though. But never say never. If my son gets interested in running a marathon, then maybe just maybe I’ll run around with him. Although I’m sure it will be highly unlikely I can keep up with him. He’s six now and faster than me!

Ed Hunt - England Athletics

Ed Hunt, Facilities and Planning Manager at England Athletics

Midstream Lighting Official Lighting partners of England Athletics

Feb 15th, 2021

The Midstream Lighting & England Athletics Floodlighting Guide

Absolutely essential reading for athletics club’s facilities managers

As England Athletics’ Official Lighting Partner we’ve created a new, comprehensive Athletics Floodlighting Guide. It’s aimed at athletic clubs and their facilities managers and will help them understand more about the seemingly complex and daunting world of lighting.

We’ve asked James Brunt, our Director of Sports, to tell us more about the guide – why we’ve created it, what it’ll give club facility managers, and the importance of best-in-class LED lighting for athletics clubs. Here’s what he has to say.

Why we’ve created this guide

As pioneers of LED lighting from when we launched over 10 years ago, we’ve made it our mission to design and deliver world-beating LED lighting solutions.

That’s not all though.

As industry leaders, we see it as our responsibility to help educate different markets, such as sports, on what LED lighting can do for them.

That’s exactly what we’ve done with this guide for England Athletics. It also ties in perfectly with their strategic initiative to develop and improve facilities at clubs and venues across the country.

England Athletics Lighting Guide Midstream Lighting
What it’ll give athletics’ club facilities managers

Let me start by telling you what it won’t give them – a lot of impenetrable, scientific ‘mumbo-jumbo’. We’ve kept it all as clear and easy to understand as possible. Even when we’ve had to use an industry term, like Uniformity, we’ve explained what it’s all about.

What does it give then?

Basically, it’s been developed to give club facilities managers an introduction to track and field athletics floodlighting standards and how these standards relate to them.

  • They’ll learn what standards they need to achieve to be compliant with athletics governing bodies’ regulations. With different rules applying to different levels and types of athletics, it’s vital they know which apply to them. It also shows them how they can future proof their lighting for and changes that may happen, like moving up a league.
  • It gives details of the basic equipment needed to analyse, and have a better understanding, of their current floodlighting. Apart from an LED light meter, which only costs around £100 or so, the only other equipment they need is a tape measure, marker objects, a bit of board, and a pen. It really is that basic. It’s how it’s used that counts.
  • It features a step-by-step guide to allow them to easily self-assess their lighting levels around all their grounds. This isn’t as difficult as it may appear. But if they use the wrong equipment, take readings at the wrong time of day, or in the wrong places, all their work will be for nothing. So, the guide also highlights all the common mistakes they need to avoid.
  • Plus, it lets them know what they have to do to improve their lighting. If it’s needed.
Why best-in-class LED lighting is so important for athletics clubs

There are many advantages of improved lighting around athletics. The key benefits can be summarised as:

  • Reduced energy costs. We’ve cut energy bills by up to 70% for some clients when switching their old metal halide floodlights for LED ones. In a world where the bottom line is being squeezed harder and harder this can only be a good thing.
  • Less maintenance. With the cost of bulbs, the equipment needed to fit them, staff time and costs, not to mention downtime, maintaining traditional metal halide athletics floodlighting systems isn’t cheap. Another ‘plus’ for a club’s bottom line when they switch to LED floodlighting. Also, just imagine what it’d do for a club’s reputation if its system were to go down mid-meeting. This won’t happen with an LED system.
  • Greatly extended opening hours. Clubs will be able to keep their facilities open for longer. This can lead to increased revenue and help attract new members too.
  • Improved safety and security. Failing to meet health and safety regulations can cost clubs a great deal if there’s an accident that could have been avoided. Security issues can cause a host of problems for clubs too – personal and financial.
  • Making sure a club’s lighting is compliant with national and international regulations. If a club’s facilities aren’t up to scratch, especially the lighting, it can cause them all sorts of issues. They could mean removal from a league… records not being allowed to count… the list goes on.
  • Reduce light pollution. Our athletics LED floodlights spill less light around surrounding areas. This is something a club’s neighbours will greatly appreciate.
  • Future-proofing a club’s lighting for years to come. Our LED floodlighting systems are versatile and easily adaptable. So if things change, for example, new regulations being introduced or a club being promoted to a new league, our LED lighting can quickly be upgraded without the need to ‘scrap’ everything and start all over.
  • Achieving the lighting levels needed to host a televised event. If a club is invited to hold an event that’s going to be broadcast, it needs the perfect lighting to do it. This need can be built into our lighting designs for the very start. Or we can easily install a temporary, portable upgrade to meet the levels required.

As you can see there are lots of compelling reasons why an athletics club should upgrade to Midstream’s world-beating LED lighting.

James Brunt, Director of Sports, Midstream Lighting.

James heads up our Sports Lighting Division. With 16 years’ industry experience, spanning the delivery of grassroots facilities all the way through to world-class sporting stadiums, James is a trusted advisor throughout the industry and recognised for his unrivalled expertise.

November 18th, 2020

Lighting the way for England Athletics

Midstream Lighting has been appointed as the Official Lighting Partner of England Athletics. So, we’ve asked Michael Short, Head of Marketing at Midstream, to tell us more about how this partnership started and what it means for both England Athletics and Midstream.

Midstream Lighting Official Lighting partners of England Athletics
Hi Michael. How did this partnership with England Athletics begin?

England Athletics was looking to build a group of partners to help them with their strategic vision of increasing standards and improving facilities across their 1,400 affiliated clubs. They didn’t have a lighting partner, so we approached them. And from the very first meeting, it was obvious there was a perfect fit between us.

Why was that?

We don’t enter into partnerships lightly. We believe for them to work both organisations need to have values and goals that really align. That was definitely the case between England Athletics and us. We both have integrity as an important value – it’s our first. And a culture of learning and development is very close to both our hearts.

What will Midstream be bringing to England Athletics?

One of the objectives of this partnership is to educate and support all the England Athletics’ facilities across the country – from the grassroots to the elite. So, we’ll be offering the entire England Athletics community a host of webinars, in-person training, and supportive guides so they can understand exactly what we as a team can achieve. That’s not all. They’ll also be able to take advantage of our lighting health checks, consultation services, advice on financial support and grants, plus lighting designs for their clubs – all for free.

Our core benefits, such as vastly cutting energy and maintenance costs, and future-proofing venues for years to come, will help them free up money to invest in athletes’ performance too.

Improved lighting will also mean clubs can get more people participating all year round at all times of the day, including at night. And it’s been shown time and time before that better-quality club facilities help improve performance.

What will this mean for Midstream in return?

Obviously there will be potential business opportunities that develop through this partnership. But it means much more than that for us as a whole. As well as working on major sporting projects, we’ve got a great deal of experience working at the grassroots level. A lot of the team here have experience playing at that level too. And for us, this partnership will allow us to work closely with an organisation that’s taking athletes from the grassroots right through to the Olympics. To be able to support these clubs and see the results of the work we’ve done coming through is going to be so exciting and highly rewarding.

Michael Short, Head of Marketing, Midstream Lighting.

Michael has over ten years’ experience in successfully helping businesses within the luxury, technology, digital, automotive, and finance markets to thrive and grow. Well versed in lead generation campaigns, re-branding, implementing technology and growing teams, Michael is an innovative and results-driven marketer – accustomed to running marketing divisions internationally. He’s no stranger to change and loves a challenge.

He now oversees the strategic direction, generation, implementation and distribution of all marketing and communications for Midstream Lighting. Providing the highest level of marketing quality, Mike leads from the front and is key in launching our bespoke products that are changing critical infrastructures all over the world.

Midstream Lighting