Sports dimensions guide

In Australia there are currently many exciting new developments in the provision of sport and recreation facilities such as indoor aquatic play areas. There is also a demand for traditional sports playing areas and facilities.

All these facilities have the potential, with proper management and promotion, to encourage greater community participation in sport and recreation activities. The result will be a healthier, happier and more cohesive Australian community.

It is important that facilities are correctly designed and accurately marked for the enjoyment of the top competitor as well as the social participant. This publication will help to ensure that sports playing areas meet these requirements.

Each sport is introduced with a brief description as well as an illustration of dimensional requirements. These illustrations are not to scale. All dimensions are metric and in some cases are direct conversions from imperials. Dimensions are those required for official competition, however in some cases these may be varied for recreation purposes.

The appropriate state sporting associations are responsible for administering their rules for playing and the dimensions for playing areas. In some instances the rules are national and international standard. Prior to proceeding with the construction or line marking of any facility, the reader is advised to contact the relevant state sporting association to obtain the most up to date information.

Sports dimensions guide

In Australia there are currently many exciting new developments in the provision of sport and recreation facilities such as indoor aquatic play areas. There is also a demand for traditional sports playing areas and facilities.

Orientation of outdoor facilities

The orientation of outdoor playing areas is an important planning consideration.

The time of day (early morning or late afternoon) as well as the time of year (winter or summer) has a bearing on optimum orientation.

The aim however is to share between opposing participants the advantages and/or disadvantages of the sun's direction and other natural factors such as breezes. It is generally recommended that playing areas are orientated approximately in a north-south direction to minimise the effect of a setting sun on players. The best common orientation is 15° east of north.

However, with more sports being played under lights, this may be less of a concern.

Limits of good orientation where a uniform direction for all facilities can be arranged:

  • athletics, basketball, bowls, croquet, handball, lacrosse, netball, tennis ─ between 20° west of north and 35° east of north
  • football: soccer, five-a-side, Australian rules, Gaelic, rugby league, rugby union ─ between 20° west of north and 45° east of north
  • hockey, polo, polocrosse ─ between 45° west of north and 45° east of north
  • baseball, cricket, softball ─ between 45° west of north and 35° east of north

Prevailing winds also have to be taken into account. In athletics, the potential problems caused by strong winds are worse than the inconvenience caused by the setting sun. Athletes approaching the finish line should not have to contend with strong winds. Pole vaulters should not be exposed to crosswinds or strong opposing headwinds. The discus is best thrown into a headwind.

In outdoor diving pools, springboards and platforms should face south.

In shooting sports and archery, outdoor ranges should be constructed so that the sun is behind the shooter as much as possible.

Lawn bowling greens must be located away from tall buildings and trees that may cast shadows over the bowling surface, thereby affecting turf performance. This is not relevant for synthetic surfaces.

Cricket pitches must run approximately north/south to minimise the risk of batsmen or bowlers facing a low sun. The pitch axis must point in a direction between 55° and 325° on the compass.

Tennis courts must be oriented with play along an approximate north/south axis.

The diagram on the left illustrates the optimum orientation for Australia for various sporting activities. Local conditions may override these recommendations.

Optimum orientation for multiple sports

Court marking

In many cases of facility provision, it is not possible to accommodate individual courts for separate activities because of cost and space factors. 

Indoor recreational

Court marking lines are painted on most sports floors. PVC tape is not usually used, except for temporary courts, whilst inlaid lines are an option for a limited number of sports floor products. 

Paint should be selected and tested to suit the type of floor. Manufacturers will supply or recommend a proven paint and give guidance on its use. Two‑­part polyurethane is often used because of its durability. All lines should be masked out to a high standard prior to painting. Line widths must be ± 2mm and overall dimensions within 0.1 %.

The layout of court markings needs to be carefully planned to avoid overlapping lines. Manufacturers can usually recommend specialist firms to undertake this work or may include it as an element of the floor installation. For multi‑­sports facilities a range of colours is required to avoid confusion. Some suppliers provide a combined service in which line markings and fixed sports equipment are installed in the same package, therefore avoiding coordination problems.

Computer drawn layouts are useful aids when deciding details of a court layout.

The following colour schemes are recommended for indoor court markings on light surfaces, e.g. wooden gymnasium floors: 

Line marking colours for indoor sports floors
SportLine colour Line width 
Indoor hockeyLight blue 50mm
5-a-side footballOther50mm

Outdoor recreational

Playing lines can be painted on most surfaces but with synthetic grass for sports such as hockey and football (soccer), they are either tufted in during manufacture or cut in when installing the surface. Colour choice is important in suitable combinations of colours for the sports to be played. The most frequently used sports are marked out in white, followed by yellow, blue and red. These colours are also recommended for multi‑­court markings on dark surfaces, such as bituminous or concrete surfaces.

Tips for line markings

Allow new asphalt pavements to cure for 7‑­10 days prior to line marking.

Do not use oil based line paint to mark new or reline the existing court pavements as they can become slippery when wet and the paint will crack.

Use water based outdoor acrylic line paint (good quality). 

Apply in thin layers – do not put heavy coats leading to build up over the asphalt as this will also crack and curl along the sides.

Line marking products

In the past, schools and sporting organisations have used sump oil or similar products as a cheap, durable and easy to apply line marking solution to outdoor grassed playing fields. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released information that states “the use of waste oil [sump oil] for line marking on playing fields is discouraged and all reasonable and practicable measures should be used to find a more environmentally benign alternative.”

The EPA also advises that “environmentally benign alternatives to using waste oil for line marking include, but are not limited to:

Organic‑­based water soluble paints.

Water‑­based vegetable dyes.


Glyphosate‑­based weed killers.”

It is an offence under the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 1997, s31(1) for a person to deposit or release oil, paint or herbicides in a place where it could reasonably be expected to be washed into a roadside gutter, stormwater drain or a [body of] water (Environmental Protection Act 1994, s440ZG). The Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, Schedule 9 lists all prescribed water contaminants.

Companies specialising in line marking products and equipment can often assist with appropriate and durable alternatives dependent on field type and conditions.

The table below provides information about some commonly used line marking products.

Product Comments
Agricultural lime—Calcite (whiting, calcium carbonate, CaC03)Calcite may be used as a dry line marking material.
These products are classified as Hazardous Substances and therefore Safety Data Sheets (SDS) must be obtained and risk assessments completed.
Coloured Oxides—use Iron (red) or zinc (white) oxides only.
Note that the SDS for oxides warn about eye damage and potential for oxides to mark the clothes of players.
Classified Hazardous Substance; SDS and risk assessment required.
Water based plastic paint
If the grass cover is good, remarking may not be necessary for up to 4 weeks. The addition of a wetting agent, ie white oil, will also assist in ensuring longer “life” of fluid.


Other resources

Environmental Protection Act 1994 (reprint 10G 2012)

Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (reprint 2E 2012)

Recycle used oil

Examples of multi-marked courts

Tennis and netball court

Combined tennis and netball court

Cricket, football, hockey pitches

Combined-cricket-and-football (soccer)

Combined cricket, football and hockey pitches

Netball, basketball, volleyball

Line-marking-indoor-four-courtLine marking indoor four court


  • Sport England Design Guidance Note. Sports Halls Design & Layouts. February revision 005. Sport England 2012.
  • Sport England Design Guidance Note. Floors for Indoor Sports. Sport England 2007.
  • Sport England Design Guidance Note. Natural Turf for Sport. Updated guidance for 2011. May revision 002. Sport England 2011.
  • A Guide to the Design, Specification & Construction Of Multi Use Games Areas (Mugas) Including Multi-Sport Synthetic Turf Pitches (STPs). Part 1 (of 3) – General Guidance and Design Considerations; Dimensions and Layouts.
  • Artificial Surfaces for Outdoor Sport Organisational Health, Department of Education, Training and Employment, December 2013 v2, Queensland Government.

Sports surfaces

From a playing perspective, the sports surface is probably the most important item of equipment in any sport facility.

From a playing perspective, the sports surface is probably the most important item of equipment in any sport facility.

For some ‘specialist’ single sport facilities it may simply be a question of selecting the ideal surface for that sport.

Generally facilities are multi-use and can make the selection of the playing surface far more complex. There will be a need to consider carefully the range of sports, levels of play, extent of use and the objectives and proposed programming of the facility.

Other factors include resources available to maintain the playing surface and funds available for replacement at the end of its life.

Standards Australia produces two documents to assist in determining what surface is applicable to a particular sport. These documents are Handbook Sporting Facilities Manual Part 2: Sporting Surfaces SAA HB49.2 1993 and Synthetic Sporting Surfaces Part 1 General Principles AS 3541.1 1988.

Outdoor sports surfaces

Traditionally sport has been played on natural grass surfaces.  Natural grass sports surfaces were developed on open space sites set aside for recreation as towns and cities evolved. The nature of the sporting activity determined the requirements for the sports ground in relation to size and surface characteristics.

The use of synthetic turf playing surfaces is becoming more widespread in Australia and Internationally.

The department has produced a publication Natural Grass vs Synthetic Turf Decision Making Guide.  The purpose of this decision making guide (the guide) is to help organisations make an informed choice on surface type - natural grass v synthetic turf for sports grounds specifically football, cricket, lawn bowls, hockey, soccer, rugby, tennis, and other relevant multipurpose facilities.

This guide provides an outline of the considerations that need to be taken into account. A detailed report Natural Grass v Synthetic Turf Study accompanies this guide and provides extensive information on each of the key considerations.

Indoor sports surfaces

There is a range of floor surfaces available for indoor sports facilities. The various requirements of different sports and the extent to which some surfaces may be considered as ‘multi-sport’ surfaces, together with design, cost and construction implications are key issues in deciding on the appropriate surface.

A specialist sports floor is the critical element in providing a comfortable and safe place in which to play sport. Halls may also be used for some non-sports purposes but the primary function of safety requirements should not be compromised.

Key issues:

  • Priortise sporting use.
  • Potential non-sporting use.
  • Load bearing and wear requirements. For example, the structural loading must accommodate special features such as bleacher seating or roller skating.
  • Risk of physical injury.
  • Stable environmental conditions.
  • Operational issues/health and safety. The positions of fixed and portable sports equipment and their floor sockets should be integrated into the design.
  • Environmental sustainability.
  • Sport performance and testing.
  • Standards Australia performance and sports specific standards. The sports floor should conform with the appropriate performance standards for the priority range of sports to be accommodated.

A range of materials can provide good multi–sports floors. These include:

  • Various timbers such as beech, maple or oak, either solid or veneer.
  • Polymeric and sheet flooring such a vinyl, linoleum, rubber and composites are widely used.
  • Textile flooring such as heavy woven fabric, felt, flock and velour.
  • Fibre-bonded, needle-punched and fine pile carpet.
  • Knitted, woven or tufted carpet.


  • Design Guidance Note. Floors for Indoor sports. Sport England, September 2007.
  • SAA HB49.2 1993: Sporting Facilities Manual Part 2: Sporting Surfaces.
  • AS 3541.1  1988: Synthetic Sporting Surfaces: Part 1 General Principles

Standards Australia publications

  • Australian Standard (AS) 4282-1997: Control of Obtrusive Effects of Outdoor Lighting
  • SAA HB.1 ─ 1993: Sporting Facilities Manual Part 1: Sports Lighting
  • SAA HB49.2 ─ 1993: Sporting Facilities Manual Part 2: Sporting Surfaces
  • AS 3541.1 ─ 1988: Synthetic Sporting Surfaces: Part 1 General Principles
  • AS 2560.1 ─ 2002: Sports Lighting Part 1: General Principles
  • AS 2560.2.1 ─ 2003: Sports Lighting: Part 2.1: Specific Applications ─ Lighting for Outdoor Tennis
  • AS 2560.2.2 ─ 1986: Guide to Sports Lighting ─ Lighting of Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Centres
  • DR 07056: Draft for Public Comment Australian Standard ─ Sports Lighting Part 2.3: Specific Applications ─ Lighting for Football (all codes) ─ January 2007
  • AS 2560.2.3 ─ 2002: Sports Lighting Part 2.3: Specific Applications ─ Lighting for Football (all codes)
  • AS 2560.2.4 ─ 1986: Guide to Sports Lighting Part 2.4: Lighting for Outdoor Netball and Basketball
  • DR 07057: Draft for Public Comment Australian Standard ─ Guide to Sports Lighting Part 2.5: Specific Applications ─ Swimming Pools ─ January 2007.
  • AS 2560.2.5 ─ 1994: Guide to Sports Lighting Part 2.5: Specific Recommendations ─ Swimming Pools
  • AS2560.2.6 ─ 1994: Guide to Sports Lighting ─ Specific Recommendations ─ Baseball and Softball
  • AS 2560.2.7 ─ 1994: Guide to Sports Lighting ─ Specific Recommendations ─ Outdoor Hockey
  • DR 07058: Draft for Public Comment Australian Standard ─ Guide to Sports Lighting Part 2.8: Specific Applications ─ Outdoor Bowling Greens ─ January 2007
  • AS 2560.2.8 ─ 1994: Guide to Sports Lighting ─ Specific Recommendations ─ Outdoor Bowling Green


The information in this guide is general in nature and cannot be relied upon as professional advice concerning the design of, or marking out for, sporting facilities and playing areas. No assurance is given as to the accuracy of any information contained in this guide and readers should not rely on its accuracy. Readers should obtain their own independent and professional advice in relation to their proposed sporting activity.

Page reviewed 07 September 2023