Did you know that footballs have been around since medieval times? The gross bit is that historians have also discovered that the earliest soccer balls were made from animal bladders or stomachs.

Of course, times have moved on significantly since then and with incredible advances in technology, so too has the way footballs are designed and created.

But what is the difference between a normal everyday football and an ‘official football’?

Actually there are quite a lot of differences between a bog standard football that you can buy in any shop or store and an official football, one that is sanctioned by a governing body and used professionally.

The Differences

Who remembers as a kid getting an inflated, lightweight plastic football? They’re cheap, they’re easy to kick around for little kids and they’re unlikely to break a window if kicked too hard.

They are also, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, not official.

To be considered an official football, certain criteria must be met by the manufacturer.

Specifications and Standards

The football must adhere to strict regulations set by governing bodies like FIFA, UEFA, or national football associations.

These standards include size, weight, circumference, pressure, and material specifications.

An official football for adult matches (size 5) must have a circumference of 68-70 cm (27-28 inches) and weigh between 410-450 grams (14-16 ounces).

The ball must be inflated to a pressure of 0.6 – 1.1 atmospheres (600 – 1,100 g/cm²) at sea level.

Footballs used in regular games, may not strictly follow these regulations. They can vary in size, weight, and material and are often designed for fun or training rather than professional matches.

Materials and Construction

The best footballs used by professionals are typically made from high-quality synthetic leather (polyurethane or PU), which provides durability and consistent performance.

The panels are often thermally bonded rather than stitched. This ensures that that they rarely absorb water which produces a more accurate flight path when they are kicked.

Inside, they usually have a latex or butyl bladder to maintain air pressure and shape.

This is different from a normal football which can be made from a variety of materials, including cheaper plastics or rubber.

Testing and Certification

Long before a professional football ever gets a foot to an official football they must pass rigorous testing for factors like weight, circumference, roundness, rebound, and water absorption.

Once these tests prove that the ball performs consistently under different conditions, they are then certified.

A football with the likes of the “FIFA Quality Pro” mark, indicates that they meet the highest standards.

It also means they can be used in professional matches, tournaments, and leagues because they meet the expectations of professional players and officials.

Who Makes The Official Football For The Premier League?

Currently Nike make the official footballs for the Premier League. They have been supplying the league since the 2000/01 season.

In the 23 years they have been supplying the match balls, technological advancements have seen them undergo significant changes.

The first footballs supplied were call ‘Nike Geo Merlin’ and at the time were hailed as the roundest, fastest, most accurate ball ever.

By the 2018/19 season Nike had introduced All Conditions Control (ACC) technology in a football for the first time.

Not only that but the twelve panel design of the traditional football has been reduced to just four. The idea behind it was less panels meant less seams which eliminated hard spots when it was being kicked.

But not content with that design, by the 2020/21 season the construction of the football had changed again. This time we got the ‘Nike Flight’ which is still used today.

What sets the Nike Flight apart from its predecessors is the use of Nike Aerowsculpt technology which uses moulded grooves. Aerodynamically, it results in truer flight compared to Nike’s previous Merlin ball.

So for four years the ball has remained the same but each season the colours and design changes.

UEFA European Championship (the Euros) Football

The official football for the Euros is made by Adidas. Adidas has been the official supplier of match balls for the Euros for several tournaments, continuing its long-standing partnership with UEFA.

For Euro 2024, Adidas unveiled the Fussballliebe, the official tournament football. The term ‘Fussballliebe’ means ‘love of football’ and the design is said to represent ‘the joy of football’.

Interestingly, and for the first time at the Euros, the Adidas ball also comes with Connected Ball Technology.

The tech is based around a suspension system in the centre of the ball which basically has a motion sensor that provides real time data for every element of the movement of the ball.

This data can then be sent to video match officials who can combine it with player position data and semi-automated offside technology to make VAR decisions.

That is a step up from the football used in the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, which was held in 2021 – the Adidas Uniforia ball.

The name Uniforia combines the words “unity” and “euphoria,” reflecting the spirit of bringing together the entire continent.

The design featured bold black brushstrokes and colourful accents to represent the diversity and unity of the host cities.

How Much Do Official Footballs Cost?

The good news is that if you have £130 to spare you can buy your very own Nike Flight official football.

Of course, that price is out of budget for 99.99% of the population which is why cheaper replicas are also produced. They will set you back around £25-£30 each from the Nike store.

Likewise for the Euro 2024 Adidas Fussballliebe Pro Football which you can buy online at Adidas for £130. Their replica ball, which comes in two sizes, can be purchased for £50.

This is retail and it’s unlikely that they are charging the Premier League full whack for every ball, especially as multiple new balls are used in every single game.

The good news is that these footballs, despite taking a battering for at least 90 minutes do get re-used.

They are often later used in training sessions, youth matches, or lower-tier competitions. A lot of the time they are also passed down to youth teams and grassroots programs once they are no longer needed at the professional level.