World Cup football tested on campus (VIDEO)

Researchers from Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute have carried out rigorous testing into the adidas Al Rihla Pro football – the official match ball used at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

PhD students Lauren Holmes and Ieuan Phillips tested the ball across three separate platforms to assess its mechanical performance.

Kicking Robot

The testing started with the kicking robot, a device that consistently strikes the football at game-realistic speeds allowing measurements to be made of ball performance and consistency.

“The kicking robot is a piece of kit that we have developed in-house,” explains Ieuan.

“It’s useful for determining differences between different balls. Naturally, players are very unreliable, if I kicked the ball ten times it would go off in ten different directions, but the kicking robot can do the same thing repeatedly time and time again.

“This means we can isolate the different effects of technology in the ball – construction, assembly and materials – to see how they relate to performance.”

Drop Test

The football was then put through its paces during the drop test as Lauren described: “The drop test is where we hold the ball at two metres and drop it to see how high it bounces back.

“That allows us to calculate something called the coefficient of restitution where we have a drop height and bounce height. We can then work out how bouncy that ball is.”

Stiffness Test

The ball was also tested for its stiffness: “The stiffness test is compressing the ball to around 30 per cent of its original diameter,” Lauren explained. The amount of force required provides a measure of the ball stiffness.

Ieuan added: “The layered construction and materials of different balls, well as inflation pressure, will result in different stiffness responses. This will affect its collision characteristics – how much it deforms, the shape it deforms to, and the nature of its rebound, which may, in turn, be perceivable to players”

Ieuan summarised the importance of the testing and how this benefits global sporting brands: “The great thing about Loughborough and the Sports Technology Institute is the collaboration between partners in the sports industry, both governing bodies and brands.

“We’re able to meet the needs of the industry effectively. There’s been a lot of testing that has taken place over the last 20 years which has revealed how the performance of footballs has changed from a hand-stitched 32 panel ball to the highly spherical, highly uniform development we see today."

For more information on the Sports Technology Institute, visit its dedicated website here:

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/232

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.