With the aim of finding out what is really important for professional players when it comes to footballs, FIFA commissioned Loughborough University, with the support of FIFPro, to carry out a research study to develop an improved understanding of players’ opinions about all footballs and their playing characteristics.
In order to address the aims of the project, two distinct approaches were employed: a qualitative approach involving player interviews and analysis of written material, and a quantitative approach involving collecting player responses to a questionnaire. Both approaches were completed concurrently between January 2013 and May 2013.
The first results of the study reveal that a significant majority of players (~85 per cent) consider the balls they use to be acceptable. Of the characteristics that are covered by FIFA tests, mainly ball weight and height of bounce were considered to be of concern by the players. This suggests that the majority of tests within the FIFA Quality Programme for Footballs are working effectively.
Besides those 'classic' characteristics, it is concluded that the characteristics related to ball flight are considered to be most in need of attention by the players. Stability through the air, swerve through the air and speed through the air are criteria named by the players that are perceived to vary between balls and to be in need of improvement.
Furthermore, it seems evident that no universal consensus would be possible in determining the ideal characteristics of a football, given the range of preferences expressed by the players. The biggest differences were between the criteria that are important for goalkeepers, and those that are important for outfield players.
A summary of the results will be published by the end of the year.