FIFA MAGAZINE ARTICLE 1
FIFA -"Getting Tough with the Balls"
From FIFA Magazine 17-Jun-1998
Why Passing is sometimes the toughest part
Getting Tough with the Balls
The Denominations Programme is based on a series of laboratory tests - but just how tough are these tests? How many footballs actually fail to meet the required standards - and why?
As teachers the world over will argue, there is no point in having examinations unless there are achievements. Otherwise, where is the status or merit in passing? The same thought process was adhered to by ISL Licensing, which manages the Denominations Programme on behalf of FIFA, at the time the Programme was devised over three years ago.
"If we wanted to demonstrate that the world body of football was serious about enhancing quality standards for footballs, the tests the balls had to pass had to be tough," says Gerhard Prochaska, managing director of ISL Licensing. "And they are."
You need look no further for proof than the pass rates recorded in the first year of the Programme, 1996. "At that time, 75% of the balls seeking to achieve FIFA Approved standard were not up to scratch, " says Prochaska. "Now, two years later, that figure is down to 65%.
Improved failure rate
In effect, only just over a third of the footballs tested for this standard actually achieve it. It has to be earned. "The less stringent standards for the FIFA Inspected hallmark saw a 56% failure rate two years ago, which is now down to 44%.
"All these figures are encouraging, for two reasons. One, earning a licence to use the FIFA logo is now established as a genuinely high honour in the game and two, football manufacture is improving, as failure rates fall and pass rates increase. "It means the fundamental aim of the Programme is being achieved - and now 240 models have been credited with the FIFA marks."
The test criteria are much more stringent than anything a football would endure during a normal match. Only minuscule variations in weight, circumference and sphericity are allowed. There must be minimal water absorption and loss of pressure - and a consistent rebound is demanded.
The measuring of the above six qualities apply to potential FIFA Approved and FIFA Inspected footballs - a seventh test for shape and size retention is demanded for the FIFA Approved pass - and in each case the tests for this higher mark are more rigorous.
Waterproof coating is the norm
Once a ball has earned its FIFA hallmark, a royalty is payable for the prestige of carrying the prestigious logo - although a third designation is available. That is the International Matchball Standard - which carries no royalty to FIFA. This is the quality equivalent of FIFA Inspected status.
With nearly three years of experience under its belt, FIFA can now advise prospective licensees as to which tests are the most likely to cause failure. Taking the higher FIFA Approved criteria, the test which found most footballs wanting was for water absorption. Over 50% of footballs fail this test. However, had the Denominations Programme existed in the days of soggy, leather footballs, the pass rate would have been 0%!
Players the world over are thankful the days of porous leather footballs have been consigned to history. In wet conditions, the ball soon became soggy and heavy; difficult to kick and arguably dangerous to head - especially when the laces were facing the head. Today, synthetic leather with a waterproof coating is the norm, with technology moving materials forward every year.
The watchword is quality
Nevertheless, as the EMPA tests show, the problem of water absorption, although slight, does persist. To counteract this, six- and 12-panel balls are being developed, as opposed to the 18, 20, 26 and 32-panel balls currently in use. The theory is: less panels, less seams and stitches, therefore less points of entry for water. We shall be looking at these developments in a future article.
Close on the heels of the water absorption test, the circumference test currently fails 46% of FIFA Approved candidates. The other tests have relatively low failure rates, as the chart elsewhere on these pages show - only the rebound test fails more than 20%, and then only when the temperature is raised to 20░C. Footballs prefer colder climates.
As might be expected, it is the seventh FIFA Approved test which proves to be a really tough hurdle. And no wonder when a ball is fired 2,000 times at a steel plate at 50kph, putting incredible pressure on the stitching. Some balls simply start to split at the seams under this level of duress and fail as a consequence.
But the watchword at EMPA, the Swiss Federal Test Laboratories is not 'pass' or 'failure' - but 'quality'.
"Any match official or player who sees the FIFA emblem on a football is also seeing a guarantee of quality," says Gerhard Prochaska. "The game, at whatever level, can then be played in the knowledge that unforeseen deviations in the character of the ball will not influence the result. Skill should come to the forefront."
Article graciously provided by FIFA. www.fifa.com
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