Loughborough University spinout collaborates on rugby ball of the future

A spinout company founded by two Loughborough alumni has supported the launch of a new rugby ball which could be set to revolutionise the sport.

Progressive Sports Technologies, founded in 2001 by Professor Mike Caine, the former Dean of Loughborough University London (BSc Human Biology 1994) and Ross Weir (BSc Sports Technology, 2003) validated the technology developed over four years by sports data specialists Sportable and leading manufacturer Gilbert.

Capable of real-time 3D tracking, kick pass trajectories and high accuracy spin-rate up to 600 rpm, the new ball aims to provide instant, actionable insights for match officials, coaches and players and deeper analysis for sports commentators and fans.

Built to withstand the rigours of elite-level rugby, with the same weight and natural movement of a regulation match ball, it has been trialled by England Rugby’s senior and Sevens teams as well as Bath and Leicester Tigers.

Sportable’s CTO Dr Pete Husemeyer likens the achievement to “a laptop being kicked by the world’s best sports men and women.”

Progressive used the University’s Sports Technology Institute’s world-class laboratories adjacent to its base in LUSEP, the University’s Science and Enterprise Park.  Robotic tests were undertaken to repeatedly kick, compress and spin the ball to show that it could relay real-time, accurate data from an internal chip to pitch-side sensors.

Progressive were the perfect fit for the product testing and validation needs for Sportable, as Pete Husemeyer added:

“We embed electronics in our products to deliver insights to customers at the elite end of the market, so we have to be certain that our electronics are safe under the most intense conditions.

“Furthermore, we must maintain the highest level of quality for the athletes who use our products. Progressive helped us to do both these things, and we look forward to continuing our work with them.”

For Progressive, working with Sportable has been really satisfying opportunity to help bring an innovative product to market.

Ross Weir, Director and Co-Founder of Progressive, said:

“Sportable and Gilbert’s smart rugby ball has the potential to revolutionise how rugby is played, watched and officiated. In-play data collection allows coaches, spectators and match officials to access information to supplement what is currently available, enabling evidence-based decision making, alongside an enhanced audience experience.

“Working together we have collated evidence to further strengthen the case for the widespread adoption of this game-changing technology.”

Professor Tracy Bhamra, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Science and Enterprise Park lead said:

“This is a great example of how the University’s world-class sports cluster collaborates to drive innovation and economic growth.”

Progressive Sports Technologies (Progressive) was launched 20 years ago from Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute and has collaborated extensively with many of the world’s leading sporting goods brands.