Since the FIFA Quality Programme for Footballs began in 1996, more than 1,300 different ball models have been tested and certified by EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) according to the FIFA APPROVED or FIFA INSPECTED criteria.

In the context of an initiative to improve the technological development of footballs, one part of which was the Player Perception Study carried out with Loughborough University, EMPA have done an extensive analysis of all tests performed since 1996, compared them with each other and extrapolated trends and correlations.

The results show that the quality of the footballs tested has increased thanks to the FIFA Quality Programme. In addition, the detailed analysis gives an indication of the kind of modifications to the quality criteria that might make sense in the future in order to further develop footballs and achieve the highest quality standards.

Here is a summary of some of the results:

• The percentage of balls tested according to the higher FIFA APPROVED standard is consistently high and significantly greater than the number of INSPECTED tests (69 per cent compared to 31 per cent).

• Since 1996, the percentage of balls that did not pass the tests has dropped steadily (APPROVED fail rate has fallen from 56 per cent to 34 per cent).

• The aspects of the tests that balls most commonly fail on are water absorption, rebound, shooting and roundness tests.

• The development of new production techniques has ensured significant improvements in test results since 2004, even in traditionally stitched balls.