THE USE of 'smart' footballs in AFL games has moved a step closer after the completion of initial research into how a computer chip impacts on a ball's behaviour.
The study of smart footballs was undertaken at Victoria University in Melbourne as part of a research paper titled Determination of Objective and Subjective Performance Characteristics of an AFL Football.
An executive summary of the paper was released on Thursday.
"First of all, the chip would be something that could triangulate off player GPS units to give an exact location of the ball at any given time," the AFL's general manager of football operations Mark Evans told AFL.com.au.
"It's what's called a reflective chip. It's not self-powered. It can be detected by GPS units in the vicinity.
"So there are a lot of different things that you could do with that. It could aid graphical images of play – heat maps and things like that.
"Other than for coaching and media purposes, it could also be used for things like score reviews.
"At the moment we're only looking at a chip that's a positional locator.
"But the possibility is that in the future you could have some sort of motion sensor, which might assist with things like the ball hitting the post or being touched."
The research done at Victoria University found that, "There were few differences in technique, impact characteristics and ball performance between the Sherrin standard football and the Sherrin Smart ball."
However, an exact date for a trial of smart balls in match conditions at the highest level has not been decided.
"It's being trialled outside of competition at the moment," Evans said. "The next step would be to put it into a game, but I don't think we'll get to that in the near future."
Along with looking at how a chip impacts on the performance of a ball, a range of other research into the behaviour of footballs was also undertaken.
A key aim of the research was to come up with an updated set of guidelines for the size and weight of balls to be used in Australian Rules matches.
Fifteen elite players and eight elite umpires were measured using various footballs.
The difference in performance between balls made by Sherrin, Ross Faulkner and Burley was looked at, while the performance of new balls versus kick-in balls was measured.
In addition, the performance of red balls versus yellow balls was measured.
"I think players and umpires have had thoughts about brands and particular colours of footies in the past," Evans said. "The study showed there was no discernible difference according to brand or colour.
"But we did find there was enormous variability in the measurements of a footy and some large difference in the pressure that people pump footies to.
"You see guys do the pressure test where they push the end of the ball in. It's probably not as tight a guideline as we should use.
"And in the production processes, we think there can probably be some greater quality control of the dimensions of the footy."