After several years of applications, investment in equipment, assessments and proposed new test methods, Sports Labs’ laboratory in Edinburgh was last year handed the contract to become an International Match Standard (IMS) FIFA Test Institute for footballs.
Under the FIFA Quality Programme all officially certified footballs can carry one of three new FIFA quality marks: FIFA Quality PRO, FIFA Quality, or IMS. Balls are tested in seven areas – circumference, sphericity, rebound, water absorption, weight, loss of pressure and shape and size retention.
“Only footballs that have passed rigorous tests are awarded the prestigious FIFA quality labels,” a spokesperson for FIFA said.
“It is part of The FIFA Quality Programme, which offers an internationally recognised and dependable industry standard in the areas where it matters most: equipment, playing surface, technology and services
By securing its status as an IMS Institute, Sports Labs became the world’s first company certified to undertake testing in all of the three key categories – football turf, goal line technology and footballs.
According to Niall MacPhee, Sports Labs’ business development manager, the achievement of a “world first” is not only a reflection of the company’s individual excellence – but also of the expertise within the SAPCA membership.
“SAPCA fosters excellence and this is a great example of how a long-term SAPCA member has continued to develop as an organisation and give the UK a great technical recognition worldwide,” MacPhee said.
“And as a leading test institute, we have the obligation to drive standards upwards.
“During the accreditation process we challenged the current working methods and participated in comparative testing both in our laboratory in Edinburgh and in Switzerland with FIFA, alongside the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA).
“We took a new, accurate test method to the technical working group utilising 3D scanning technology.”
According to Eric O’Donnell, Sports Labs managing director, the company’s keenness to help FIFA raise the bar was also the source of the project’s biggest challenge.
“The most challenging thing about achieving IMS status was the fact the manufacturers did not want to implement new, more accurate scanning technology to the testing process,” he said.
“This is because it could potentially affect the compliance of ball samples being examined.
“Sports Labs is all about pushing the boundaries by embracing new technologies, so this was a bit of a blow!”