An experimental study of football aerodynamics.

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


This PhD programme will concentrate on generating understanding of the flow-field around footballs and how this flow-field determines the aerodynamic performance. The work will start by investigating orientation and spinning effects using simplified geometries, for example balls with a single seam, to study how the seam orientation influences the flow-field depending on its relative location to the onset flow and how the effect alters with the locations on the ball and when the seam is orientated differently relative to the onset flow. Of particular interest will be the separation angle at different ball latitudes, the influence of the seam as trip or a 'rudder'. The effects of spinning will be investigated using phase locked techniques.
The later stages of work will be guided by early results but it is envisaged that the work will progressively consider more complex panel arrangements, seam geometries and the effects of surface roughness. There are a number of experimental tools available, including balance measurements, hotwire probes, pressure measurements and PIV flow-field measurements. The latter includes planar, stereoscopic and tomographic PIV systems.


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publication icon
Ward, M (2018) Characterisation of football trajectories for assessing flight performance. in Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part P: Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509516/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1843979 Studentship EP/N509516/1 01/01/2017 30/06/2020 Matthew Ward
Description The aerodynamic performance of a football is difficult to quantify; comments in the media often centre around the 'stability' or 'controllability' of a ball. From an engineering perspective, there needs to be quantifiable measurements from a flight to enable direct, meaningful comparisons and eventually the development of standards in the area. Work has been undertaken to develop some measurements on simulated flight paths; which will lead into some kind of perception study to say what these represent subjectively ('good' or 'bad').

Now that we can compare the flight paths of footballs, the aim is to build relationships between the surface features of a ball and their affects on the aerodynamic performance. Some work has been undertaken already on measuring the forces acting on simple case studies and the flowfields causing these forces. Future tests are planned to develop these simple cases towards more realistic, complex footballs.
Exploitation Route The flight characterisation measurement methods are being taken forward to be used in more subjective perception tests. This will enable relationships to be drawn between the characterisation measurements and players' perceptions on the 'stability' or even simply 'good' or 'bad'. If good correlations can be drawn, these can begin to construct standards for football flight.

Once complete, the relationships between a football's features and it's performance can be used by ball designers to modify ball prototypes to ensure they meet any applicable aerodynamic standards.
Sectors Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Other

Description Football aerodynamics - adidas 
Organisation Adidas Group
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution adidas provide historical expertise and knowledge from designing footballs for many years. They have also provided bespoke prototypes for testing. In response, they will gain more scientifically acquired knowledge as to how changing the features on a ball will affect its aerodynamic performance. This will result in more effective future ball design.
Collaborator Contribution Direct financial contribution. Provision of specimens to be tested.
Impact Development of flight characterisation methods to enable effective quantification of a football's performance. This used test specimens supplied by adidas and the methods were discussed with their football deign teams to obtain feedback. • Ward M., Passmore M.A., Spencer A., Tuplin S., Harland A: Characterisation of Football Trajectories for Assessing Flight Performance; Proc. IMechE Pt. P J. Sport. Eng. Technol. (2018) doi: 10.1177/1754337118774414
Start Year 2017