Pitch Perfect

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Why We Love It

When you overlay high-resolution aerial imagery from the pitches of 92 professional football clubs in England and Wales, you get a mesmerizing spirographic pattern. This map shows us the fascinating juxtaposition of playing surface dimensions and ranks them in a league table of pitch size along with the stadium plans. We love how the super large-scale blurs the line between traditional map and infographic.

Why It Works

The cartography grabs your attention with its innovation and uniqueness—part of the secret behind any successful map. Because this map deals with something familiar, it can be daring in how the subject is represented. It speaks to the interested, inquisitive lover of football. This map works because it demonstrates mapped data as something artistic, graphic, and fascinating in its own right—even outside its usual spatial context.

Important Steps

First, generate a set of pitch markings as a line feature class in ArcGIS Pro. The largest pitch (Nottingham Forest’s) was the template. Build external pitch lines using Create features on the map tools to draw a rectangle. Add internal lines using specific lengths of line or other known dimensions.

Group the set of lines, copy and position in place over a high-resolution imagery basemap in ArcGIS Pro. Zoom into each of the 92 pitches in England and Wales. Grouped lines can be rotated according to the correct angle of alignment for each pitch. Modify to fit pitch specifics. The key is that editing requires moving internal lines rather than just scaling all the lines.

All 92 grouped sets of line work in the pitch marking feature class were selected and converted to graphics in ArcGIS for Desktop's ArcMap using Converting features into graphics. They were then aligned horizontally and vertically (using the Align tools on the Draw toolbar). Presto, they all sit atop one another, rotated around the center spot.

For the right side of the poster, it was simply a case of adding a map frame to the layout for each pitch in order of area size, all at scales of 1:5,000. Small multiples and additional stadium detail give a sense of each pitch in isolation and ranked from largest to smallest. The addition of the stadia shows that there really isn’t a relationship between the ‘big’ clubs and pitch size.

The final poster was completed with various text components to provide details of pitch dimensions and stadium miscellany, an explanatory paragraph, a pitch marking diagram and a scatter graph showing the relationship between pitch length and width.

Requirements

Data

The pitch data was manually digitized from large scale digital globe imagery used in ArcGIS Online. The stadium data was derived from Ordnance Survey Open Map - Local product.

Analysis

This map is all about data creation, combination, and editing.

Time

The original pitch took a couple of hours to build in ArcGIS Pro. Each subsequent pitch took about 10 minutes to copy, paste, rotate, edit the dimensions and ensure internal consistency. Creating the Spirograph was three clicks. Designing and building the final layout took about a week.

Experimentations

Tips

Experimentation with mapped data can reveal some surprising and fascinating results. Who knew football pitches would overlay in such a beautiful way?

Football Pitch Lines

Tips

Sometimes you simply have to make the data yourself. Football pitch lines didn’t exist but if you want the map badly enough, you build the data.

Map Author

Ken Field

Ken Field

@kennethfield | LinkedIn

Professional carto-nerd, amateur drummer and snowboarder. High quality, innovative, and sometimes a little crazy cartography in modern maps.

Awards

2016 Winner: Stanfords award for print cartography

2016 Winner: BCS award for Best in Show

2016 Highly Commended: Ordnance Survey OpenData award

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