One of the least known metric units – and one which journalists and estate agents seem to struggle with – is the hectare (ha). So perhaps it will help to relate this very useful measure to the sizes of sports fields. Article (including diagrams) by Martin Vlietstra.
Q: How big is a hectare?
A: 10 000 square metres.
Q: How big is that?
A: It is the equivalent of a square, each side having a length of 100 m.
Q: What does that look like?
Many sports fields have an area that is comparable to a hectare. In some sports the size of the field is fixed; in others, the size of the field can be adjusted within limits to suit the land that is available. This article lists a number of sports whose fields are of the order of a hectare in size. The associated diagrams are all at the same scale (1:20 000 originally, but may look different on screen).
Athletics (Typically 1.2 ha inside the track)
The International Amateur Athletic Association has laid down the rules for athletic tracks that are used in competitions An athletics track is 400 m long (measured 20 cm from inside perimeter). The IAAF does not define the length of the straight section. If this section is 50 m, then the area inside the track is 1.194 ha (shown in green on the associated diagram). If the straight section is shorter, then the area increases until eventually we have a perfect circle which would have an area of 1.27 ha.
Football (International size: 0.62 ha to 0.82 ha)
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) dictate that for international matches, the length of the pitch shall be between 100 m and 110 m and its width shall be between 64 m and 75 m. The smallest international football field is therefore 0.62 ha and the largest international football field in 0.82 ha. Non-international matches may be played on fields between 90 m and 120 m long and 45 m and 90 m wide.
Cricket (Typically 1.25 ha; Lords 1.43 ha)
The laws of cricket are maintained by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). This only specifies the length of the cricket pitch (20.12 m); it does not specify the distance of the boundary from the pitch. Lords Cricket Ground, the home of the MCC, is played on a rectangular field 136 m long and 109 m wide with well-rounded corners. After allowing for corners having been rounded, it has an area of 1.43 ha. The cricket ground at the author’s home town is roughly circular and is typical of many cricket fields up and down the country. The author has paced the boundary and found it to be about 400 m. If it is assumed to be circular with a perimeter of exactly 400 m, its area would be 1.27 ha. The associated diagram is typical of many club fields and not of Lords.
Rugby (International size: 1.008 ha)
The laws and regulations of rugby dictate the maximum size of rugby fields; international matches are invariably played on fields that are of maximum size. The maximum width of a rugby field is 70 m and the maximum length between the goal posts is 100 m. In addition there is a ‘in-goal area’ that extends a maximum of 22 m behind the goal line. Thus the maximum size of the field is a rectangle 144 m in length and 70 m in width giving an area of 10080 m² (which is just over 1 ha).
Baseball (Between 0.83 ha and 1.12 ha)
The field dimensions used in Major League Baseball MLB) are laid down in the Official Rules. The exact shape of the outfield varies from field to field, but using the layout shown in the above diagram, the area of Major League Baseball fields can be shown to vary between 0.83 ha and 1.12 ha. The rules of the MLB do not apply to other leagues and so in areas where land is at a premium, the fields in lower leagues might be smaller than the minimum in the MBL.
Athletics – www.iaaf.org/newsfiles/23484.pdf
Baseball – http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/foreword.jsp
Cricket – www.lords.org/laws-and-spirit/laws-of-cricket/laws/
Rugby – http://www.irb.com/lawregulations/index.html
Football – http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/lawsofthegame.html
[Strictly speaking the hectare is not part of the International System of Units (as it is a non-standard term for 10 000 square metres). However, it is useful to have a unit intermediate between the square metre and the square kilometre , and the hectare is accepted for use with the International System. It is in widespread use in other countries that use the metric system – Ed]