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The striking engineering inside the Euro 2024 ball

Professional Engineering

The silver Fussballliebe Finale football, being used in the semi-finals and final of Euro 2024 (Credit: Adidas)
The silver Fussballliebe Finale football, being used in the semi-finals and final of Euro 2024 (Credit: Adidas)

The crowd held its breath. 52 minutes into the storm-lashed round of 16 game between Germany and Denmark, referee Michael Oliver stood at the VAR television at the side of the pitch. On the screen was the replay of David Raum’s cross deflecting off Joachim Andersen. And at the bottom, an animated soundwave-like graph with two distinct peaks.

The wave actually showed two impacts on the ball – one from Raum’s foot, and another from Andersen’s hand. Oliver turned and pointed to the penalty spot. Kai Havertz slotted the ball home.

The decisive – and controversial – penalty decision was partially made thanks to the impact data provided by a sensor inside the Adidas Fussballliebe ball, the first at a European Championship to feature the company’s ‘connected ball technology’. Before the competition reaches its conclusion on Sunday (14 July), here is a look at how the ball was engineered.

‘Unprecedented insight’

Aimed at helping match officials make accurate decisions quicker, connected ball technology uses a suspension system in the centre of the ball, holding and stabilising a 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor. Designed to provide “unprecedented insight into every element of the movement of the ball”, the sensor allows video assistant referees to identify every individual touch of the ball – including from defenders’ hands.

Developed in close collaboration with Internet of Things (IoT) firm Kinexon, the sensor also provides measurements of in-play data – including the ball speed, spin and distance it travels before hitting the net – to watching fans. It is powered by an induction-charged battery.

Combining player position data and AI elements, connected ball technology also contributes to UEFA’s semi-automated offside technology – which, earlier in the game, had found Danish player Thomas Delaney millimetres offside after he found the back of the net. With 10 specialised cameras tracking 29 different body points per player, the system uses the ball sensor to immediately identify the time of contact.

Priced at £130 for members of the public, the ball includes some other highly engineered features. Debossed grooves in the 20-panel polyurethane skin were “meticulously researched and tested both in the lab and on pitch,” Adidas said, to control airflow over the ball for maximum precision. As well as recycled polyester and water-based ink, each layer of the ball features bio-based materials including corn fibres, sugar cane, wood pulp and rubber, to boost sustainability without affecting performance.

The white Fussballliebe has been replaced by a silver version, also featuring the colours of the German flag, for this week’s semi-finals and final.

Read more about sports engineering:

How engineers are reinventing sport

Sustainable, inclusive, innovative - The role of engineering in sport

UK sports companies ‘need funding boost to level the playing field for female and disabled athletes’

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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