Is There a Sensor in Soccer Balls and What Are They Used for?

Thanks to the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), technology has been essential to soccer’s growth, from simple goal line tech to game-changing Video Assistant Referees (VARs). But has it already evolved to start inputting sensors in its balls?

There are no sensors in soccer balls, but FIFA has approved them for the 2022 World Cup. At the center of the ball, they will send data 500 times per second for more precise detection of the ball’s kick point. This will help detect offsides more accurately, with other devices, for a fairer game.

Continue reading this article to learn more about how the sensor on soccer balls will work. I’ll also discuss sensors’ benefits and general application in sports balls.

Sensors in Soccer Balls

Sensors in Soccer Balls

After successfully introducing and executing goal-line technology and VAR in the 2012 and 2018 World Cups, FIFA looks to raise the bar even higher with semi-automated offside technology.

The 2022 World Cup will be the first to host an official soccer event with such tech, and each soccer ball will have a sensor to facilitate it.

These are Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensors and would help precisely determine the ball’s kick point. By sending data to the VARs in their operation room 500 times per second, officials will operate other devices to make offside calls more quickly and precisely.

How Offsides Work in Soccer

Offside In Soccer
Offside In Soccer

For now, the sensors in soccer balls will only have one function – to help detect offsides. So what are these offsides exactly?

When a soccer player is in an area, the “offside position,” without the ball, receiving it on-field from a teammate there, is flagged offside. Soccer competitions may have slightly different criteria, but all embrace this fundamental concept.

The offside position is between an opposing team’s goalpost and the second closest player (goalkeepers being the first).

So, if you’re a soccer player, you shouldn’t receive the ball from your teammate when you’re closest to your opposition’s goalkeeper. And it doesn’t make sense to always be in that position when the ball is in play since your teammate can pass it to you.

The Football Association (TheFA), which governs professional soccer in England, states the following about offsides:

  • It isn’t an offense for a player to be in an offside area. They are penalized only when a teammate plays the ball, and the player gets involved with it or an opponent.
  • A player is in an offside area if any part of the player’s head, body, or feet is closer to the opponent’s goal post than the ball and the second-last opponent.
  • Officials don’t consider all players’ arms and hands to flag an offside.
  • If a player is in an offside area, officials won’t flag the player if he received it directly from a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick.
  • If a defending player leaves the field without the referee’s consent, he is considered on his goal line for the sake of offsides until the next stoppage of play.

How Offsides Were Detected Before

Offside decisions in soccer are very controversial. Before futuristic sensors, the linesman, an assistant referee, was the only one tasked with detecting them.

They run along the field lengths, staying with the last defender (second-last player). They’ll form an imaginary line from view with the player, looking if their opponent goes beyond them. And relying on their best judgment, training, and experience, they’ll flag for an offside or not when necessary.

In 2018, as I mentioned earlier, FIFA introduced Video Assistant Referees, who began assisting linesmen with offsides among their various duties.

However, despite the seemingly improved precision, offsides haven’t become less contentious, understandably among soccer players and fans.

So, introducing ball sensors may just be the undebatable solution they’ve all been waiting for.

Sensors in Sports Balls Explained

Sensor In Ball
Sensor In Ball

Sensors have become indispensable in the tech industry. They help “sense” changes in any physical property of their environment and transmit the information to other electronics.

Owing to the physical nature of sports, embracing technology means embracing sensors to improve them.

Unlike before, sensors have become smaller and lighter and can easily fit inside sports balls without affecting the balls’ playing performance. Its size, shape, and weight are negligible.

They measure and transmit the slightest changes in balls’ speed, acceleration, rotation, and arc. And in soccer, like earlier explained, they will gauge the ball’s angular rate, specific force, and orientation.

Advantages of Sensors in Sport Balls

Sensors have numerous applications that enhance sports generally, and we’ll look into two benefits below:

Fair Judgment

Sensors in sports balls can help officials make just decisions, especially when a slight difference in motion can be a decider.

For example, in the 2021 FA Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool, the former had two goals ruled out as offside while the latter went on to win the cup.

Fans, players, and management staff of Chelsea and neutral soccer analysts felt they were robbed by one of the offside decisions. Even after a seemingly thorough check by VARs, not everyone was content because the decision was still influenced by human judgment.

But with sensors, as explained earlier, such decisions will be more automated, objective, and even quicker, giving no room for doubt.

Improve Fans Interaction

In the 2022 soccer World Cup, once the operation room confirms an automated offside decision, the on-field referee signals it, and an automatically created animation is shown on the screen.

Viewers at home watch the animation on the devices, while those at the stadium can watch it on the jumbotron.

The animation is made from the limb-tracking data and the kick point information (sent by the sensor), hence improving communication and interaction with fans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is There a Sensor in Soccer Balls?

There is currently no sensor in soccer balls, but FIFA has approved them for the 2022 soccer World Cup. They will help detect offsides faster and more precisely during the tournament by sending data to determine kick points 500 times per second.

What Do the Sensors in a Soccer Ball Do?

Sensors in soccer balls during the World Cup will be a component of a semi-automated offside system. It will tell officials in the operating room whether a player has breached the offside rule or not.

How Does Ball Line Sensor Work?

Sensors in soccer balls precisely detect the ball’s kick point by measuring and transmitting data 500 times per second. Together with other tech devices, they will detect offsides automatically.

Do Premier League Balls Have Sensors?

Premier league balls or any other balls don’t have sensors. The 2022 World Cup will be the first to implement them in their balls. However, the premier league may decide to start using them in their tournaments after the World Cup.

Do MLS Balls Have Sensors?

MLS balls and all other balls do not have sensors. Sensors in soccer will be first used in the 2022 soccer World Cup tournament. Like other innovations, if successful, MLS may adopt them in their balls later.

Do Soccer Balls Have Microphones in Them?

Indoor Soccer Ball
Indoor Soccer Ball

Soccer balls don’t have microphones or anything in them. They are only filled with sufficient air to improve the athletic performance of their players. However, sensors will be placed inside them in the 2022 World Cup.

How Can I Hear Soccer Balls Being Kicked on TV?

You can hear the sound of soccer balls being kicked on TV because of the multiple high-frequency microphones around the stadium. Their primary function is to capture the players’ and fans’ sounds, but they still capture the loud sounds of ball kicks.

Final Thoughts

There will be sensors in the 2022 soccer World Cup balls that will help determine offsides quicker and more correctly. FIFA has previously tested them in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup and the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup.

Offside decisions can be very controversial, so it will go a long way to ensure fairness in every game.

In sports balls, generally, sensors can measure and transmit information about slight changes in rotation, arc, speed, and acceleration. Aside from better judgment calls, they also help improve fans’ interaction.


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