Your chance to improve the game by studying ball-surface interactions with FIFA

The manufacturing of footballs has evolved immensely in the last decade with thermal bonding, new panel shapes and innovative materials being seen more and more regularly.

In order to generate a better understanding of how these new footballs behave and whether test requirements may need updating to account for new properties and unlock new potential, FIFA is launching a PhD study that will provide scientific insights and inform change.

The FIFA Quality Programme was created in 1996 to harmonise and improve the quality of footballs worldwide. Two and a half decades later, FIFA now boasts a total of seven quality programmes for the endorsement of products and technologies that meet strict quality requirements to improve the game and to protect players, clubs and associations. As football develops, these requirements are continuously updated through a collaborative approach with football stakeholders, manufacturers, test institutes and universities.

With regard to footballs, new manufacturing techniques and more advanced materials mean that balls are getting more and more varied as compared to the hand-stitched 32-panel ball that most of us grew up with, leading to a much larger variety of ball designs on the market. In parallel, the emergence of artificial turf and hybrid turf systems has significantly changed the surfaces that both elite and amateur football is played on, adding further variables to the ball-surface interaction equation. Add to that the introduction of new innovations, such as goal-line technology, where some systems include technology in the ball, and it becomes vital to iteratively improve requirements that were originally designed to test a much simpler product.

It is with this intention that the Football Technology and Innovation Department is launching a PhD study with Sheffield Hallam University and the Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER) to further explore the dynamics of how new types of footballs behave and interact with different playing surfaces, as well as with players and their football equipment. In particular, football-surface interaction represents a fundamental characteristic of the game, as this interaction shapes affordances (i.e. opportunities for action) presented to players when passing or striking the ball. This research programme aims at generating insights into how FIFA can best adapt (if needed) the requirements for footballs going forward to ensure this central component is playing its part in the development of the game. This objective will be achieved by performing a series of field- and laboratory-based experiments, to build an advanced numerical model of football interaction with different surfaces. This model will then be used to simulate a range of typical football-surface interactions with a number of different ball types in order to quantify the relationship between the mechanical properties of the football and the surface, as well as the inbound and outbound trajectories.

The project is set to begin in October 2020 and offers a unique opportunity to work directly with FIFA and the research team at Sheffield Hallam University, with the outcomes and learnings leading to very real impacts on global football.

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Your chance to improve the game by studying ball-surface interactions with FIFA 1