Footballs vary in quality across each brand, from Pro quality balls through to training balls so, how can you tell one apart from the other? To ensure the highest quality footballs were recognised all around the world, FIFA came up with the FIFA Quality Programme. There are 3 quality badges available, FIFA Quality Pro, FIFA Quality and IMS (International Match Standard). Each ball must go through a rigorous testing process and only if the ball passes the 7 tests, will it then be concidered for one of the top two labels.
How does this ensure the quality is maintained?
Originally a manufacturer would apply to FIFA, for their ball to be tested to achieve the highest possible badge. This badge was then issued for a period of time, normally 3 years upon which time the ball would need retesting. However, some manufacturers then had an issue with the factory employed to make the ball, as they could then offer this quality to other retailers with their own graphics. This led to a huge quantity of footballs being available with the top FIFA Approved Quality badge and watering down the quality programme. From 1st January 2016, FIFA launched new guidance along with their new badge designs. Now the badge is issued to the manufacturing company applying for the licence and not the factory.
The footballs are inflated with compressed air to a pressure of 0.8 bar. The needle is lubricated with glycerine prior to inserting into the valve and the pressure is checked using a pressure gauge, until the correct pressure is reached. The balls are conditioned for at least 24 hours before tests can start, at a standard temperasture of 20°C with a humidity of 65%. It is important that these are maintained for every test as balls can react differently if the temperature is + or - 3°C.
The ball must meet defined standards to qualify for either of these badges, to ensure the balls are the same size throughout the game. The ball's radius is measured at 45,000 points and the circumference is calculated to ensure the ball is consistent and within the limits at every point.
It may sound obvious but if a ball isn't round, it will not roll along the ground in a natural way or fly through the air as expected. As with the circumference test, the ball is measured at 45,000 points. The difference between each point is then calculated to ensure any errors on the ball are picked up.
This test checks the elasticity of the ball. Consitent rebound is essential for players to ensure the ball behaves as expected when trying to get the ball under control with chest, head or foot. In the test the balls are dropped 10 times onto a steel plate from a height of 2 metres. The conditions are temperature controlled and the ball must consistently rebound within a specified range of heights.Water Absorption
Remember the good old days when your dad took you into the garden tohead an old leather football. It had probably sat in the shed for years and had asbsorbed huge amounts of water, which is probably one of the reasons it hurt so much. During this test the ball is turned and squeezed 250 times in a tank of water. The ball should not absorb more than 10% of the water to achieve a pass. The Size 4 ball cannot achieve FIFA Quality Pro.Weight
The weight of a football is very important, too light and you cannot control it, too heavy and players take an increased risk of injury. In this test balls are weighed 3 times in a sealed cabinet to ensure the test is not influenced by external factors. The weight must fall within the specified range as belowPressure Loss
Pressure in a football must stay constant throughout a match. Imagine if you had to keep stopping the game to re-inflate the match ball, it would take hours to complete a game. In the test the ball is inflated to the industry standard of 0.8 bar. After 72 hours it must not have lost more tahn a specified percentage of its air to meet the badge standard, as below.Shape and Size Retention
This test is obvious as it ensures the ball keeps it shape, pressure and circumference. The ball is tested by firing it against a steel plate at 50kph over 2000 times. The valve and seams must remain intact and undamaged. Only a small amount of pressure loss is acceptable, as is minimal changes in roundness and circumference, as stated below