Understanding FIFA's Quality Programme and Football Ratings System
The FIFA Quality Programme sets an "industry standard for quality and reliability in the areas where it matters to football players most: the equipment, surface, technology and services used for their game".
The programme aims to improve the game of soccer through extensive research in areas such as player safety, player performance and equipment durability. From this research, benchmarks and standards are set which must then be adhered to by manufacturers wishing to produce the highest quality products.
A few of the major Quality Programmes include:
Goal-Line Technology: Introduced in 2012, goal-line technology has become a mainstay in major tournaments such as the World Cup. Through the Quality Programme, FIFA determines which technologies can be used, how they can be implemented, and who can install and maintain the systems.
Football Turf: If turf is going to be used in a major tournament then it must perform similar to a natural grass pitch. A number of tests are performed on the turf to ensure it is safe, evenly distributed and installed correctly.
Footballs: The Quality Programme for Footballs ensures that certified balls behave predictably and with very little variation over time.
Additionally, FIFA is beginning to explore the use of video assistant referees (VARs) which could be used in live or reviewable situations. This is similar to other sports such as american football, where a play can be reviewed after the fact.
"The FIFA Quality Programme for Footballs is devoted to the ball – the very heart of the game. Only balls that have passed a rigorous testing procedure are awarded the prestigious FIFA quality labels."
FIFA certified balls have three standards. You may have seen some of the old marks used on balls (FIFA approved and inspected). FIFA is currently transitioning to a new system which is more intuitive.
- FIFA Quality (previously known as FIFA Inspected)
- FIFA Quality Pro (previously known as FIFA Approved)
- International Matchball Standard
FIFA defines a rigorous set of tests that a ball must pass before it can be sold under the mark of FIFA QUALITY or FIFA QUALITY PRO. The two standards undergo the same tests but FIFA QUALITY PRO balls must perform with a smaller tolerance.
When a manufacturer such as Adidas wishes to release a newly certified ball, test samples of the finished product must be sent to a laboratory and pass the following tests before it can be marked with the FIFA QUALITY / PRO stamps.
This test ensures all balls are the same size, giving all players an equal footing when playing in competitive matches. For FIFA QUALITY PRO size 5 balls, this circumference falls within the range of 68.5 - 69.5 cm.
Measurements are taken at 45,000 different points on the ball and the roundness is calculated mathematically. For FIFA QUALITY PRO size 5 balls, a maximum error of 1.5% is allowed.
A uniform rebound is important so players can control a pass or perform a header and expect a similar response from the ball each time. Rebound is tested in the lab by dropping it from two meters onto a steel plate and measuring the bounce height. At a given pressure and temperature, a ball should always bounce predictably.
Ideally a ball would never absorb water but in severe weather conditions, sometimes this is unavoidable. When this occurs, balls bearing the FIFA QUALITY mark are only allowed to absorb a minimal amount of water. Click the link above to see how this is tested.
Size 5 FIFA QUALITY balls must weigh between 410 - 450 grams while FIFA QUALITY PRO balls must weigh between 420 - 445 grams.
FIFA QUALITY PRO balls can lose no more than 20% of their air over a 72 hour period. The helps ensure that, over the period of a game, the ball's pressure is roughly the same.
In this test, the ball undergoes 2000 simulated kicks by a machine. By the end of it, the ball must have roughly the same pressure, circumference and roundness.
The balance test is only done on futsal balls. Because of the flat surface that futsal is played on, it's more important for the ball to roll evenly so that a pass meets it's intended recipient.
As companies continue to innovate with materials and manufacturing techniques, the Quality Programme for Footballs will introduce tighter restrictions and we'll slowly inch closer towards creating the perfect ball.
For a quick rundown of the Quality Programme for Footballs, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mybMIW7A89w&feature=youtu.be