1966 World Cup ball (Slazenger Challenge)
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pre-adidas

World Cup

match ball set

 

FIFA World Cup

1966 England

 

SLAZENGER

CHALLENGE

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THE SELECTION OF THE OFFICIAL MATCH BALL FOR THE WORLD CUP

The choice of the football to be used in the World Cup, was a matter of great importance. In previous competitions there had been problems regarding the size and weight of the footballs. In Chile, last minute arrangements had to be made to fly in supplie of footballs from other countries. This was a possibility which obviously could not be tolerated in England, and so it was decided that the choice should be made well in advance of the actual competition in order that the chosen manufacturer would have sufficient time to ensure that the footballs required (in the region of 400) could all be made to conform to the rigorous specifications demanded.

Manufacturers who wished to have their footballs considered for selection were invited to forward samples to the World Cup Organisation early in May 1965, in time for a meeting of the FIFA Bureau due to be held later that month. All the footballs submitted were required to conform to the specification laid down in Law 2 of the Laws of Football, in that they should be between 27 - 28 inches inches in circumference, and that the weight should be between 14 - 16 ounces. Convinced that there must be absolute fairness in the choice of the footballs to be used, the World Cup Organisation decided that the selection should be made by the members of the FIFA Bureau and that it should be made in presence of the Press.

A total of 111 footballs, offered by nine British and European manufacturers, came under the scrutiny of the members of the Bureau at the Olympic Restaurant, White City Stadium, London. To ensure that there was no possibility of any member of the Comittee having any prior knowledge of the footballs from which the selection was to be made, an elaborate procedure was devised by the World Cup Organisation's Finance Officer, Mr. G. N. Symes. None of the footballs offered for selection bore any markings of any kind to indicate who the manufacturer was, Nor the number of that particular football submitted, since all of them offered varying quantities. Until the final selection had been made and announced, it was impossible for anyone except the Finance Officer to have any knowledge of which manufacturer had been fortunate enough to have their football chosen.

Before the selection proceedings began, all of the footballs had been inflated to the requested pressures and they were then submitted to a series of tests to ensure that they conformed to the specifications of Law 2. A template with two circular holes had been manufactured especially for the purpose of testing the diameter of the footballs. Each football being tested had to pass through one of the holes (the larger) and fail to pass through the other (the smaller) to meet the circumference requirements. A weighing scale was also used to make certain that the weight was within the prescribed limits. The template and the scales used were both certified in advance for accuracy by the Public Control Office (Weights and Measures). The Bureau members responsible for the decision also tested the balls for bounce on a hard surface, as well as on the playing pitch at White City Stadium, a ground which was to be used to stage one of the World Cup matches.

Of the total number of footballs inspected, no fewer than 48 failed to meet the required specification for one reason or other, leaving a total of 63 from which the actual selection was made. There were only two instances in which the entire sample  of footballs submitted by an individual manufacturer met the specification completely, a point which ocassioned some suprise, given the publicity value that was certain to benefit the chosen manufacturer.

More than half of the footballs which certain manufacturers offered were rejected for one reason or another. From the 63 remaining footballs from which the final decision had to be made, eight were shortlisted for further examination. These eight balls had been provided by five different manufacturers. Two of the eight footballs did not reach the standard demanded by the final minute and precise inspection and after considerable deliberation, the choice fell to a football manufactured by Slazenger Limited, of Challenge House, Mitcham Road, Croydon, Surrey. Patterns on the footballs from which the final choice was made varied from 32, 30, 25, 24 and 18 panels. The colour choices ranged through lemon, orange, white and black and white.

Once the actual football had been chosen, orders were passed to the manufacturer that supplies should be provided in lemon, orange and white so that the referee in any given match should have the choice of colour he desired, according to the conditions prevailing at the time. In all, some 400 footballs were required for use during the course of the competition. In order that the 16 competing finalist teams would have the opportunity of familiarising themselves with the type of ball with which they were going to be required to play with, supplies were made available to each national association at the time of the World Cup Draw in January, 1966. Therefore every competing country had at least six months in which its players could become accustomed to using the official tournament ball. From the moment the footballs were chosen under such exacting conditions, the same degree of accuracy was demanded for the ball of each match until the tournament had been completed.

For every game throughout the competition, a large supply of footballs were available from which the referee was able to make his own choice. To ensure that every one of them met the specification laid down, and conformed to the quality standard of the football originally chosen more than a year earlier, a representative of the manufacturer was present at each match, using test equipment to ensure uniformity in every respect for every game.

THE SLAZENGER CHALLENGE

As already mentioned above, the official ball for the 1966 World Cup was called "Challenge 4-stars". It was manufactured by Slazenger (at the time operating in England and now in Australia – although the present company doesn’t produce football equipment any longer). The Challenge 4-stars was a ball with high quality leather and entirely hand sewn. It was composed of 25 rectangular panels, joined together in a way that was very similar to the 1958 ball and which differed only in the panel which contained the valve.  In the Slazenger ball the valve was in the centre of a small panel between two other, even shorter, panels. The remaining panels were the same as the 1958 ball and the inflating system was the latest type valve - latex rubber.

The Slazenger ball provided excellent sphericity, and its composition was adopted over the years by other brands. The balls of the 1966 World Cup were provided in three different colours: white, yellow, and red-orange. Although the most widely used model was the white one, in the memory of football fans the red-orange ball of the historic final of Wembley remains the strongest. The pure white ball was the most frequently used during the tournament as it was the most visible during the matches and was therefore very good for the black and white television broadcasting of the era. White balls had already been adopted in the last games of the 1958 World Cup and were also used in Chile in 1962; they were quite different from the classic brown or dark yellow balls – the most common colours  for footballs. In the years that followed the 1966 World Cup however, totally white balls became much more popular in England and they are still the most commonly used nowdays – although heavily marked with logos, trading symbols and other written text.

The 1966 World Cup rigorously adopted the old rule of FIFA and the Olympic International Committee – this being that the tournament balls (and those supplied to the teams to train with) were entirely free from branding. The Challenge 4-stars was a classic leather made ball, treated with the best technologies of the time. The leather was stretched, softened and elasticized with the colouring applied by using modern techniques. The commercial versions of the ball, with their 3 colours, were marketed completed with the name, brand logo and with the 4 stars from which the name of the ball was derived.

The Slazenger 4 stars represented the last “home made” ball supplied by the host country of a FIFA World Cup tournament, because from 1970 onwards adidas supplied the official match balls for all of the World Cups.

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