In 1836  Charles  Goodyear  patented  vulcanized  rubber. Prior  to  this, balls  were dependant on the size and shape of the pig's bladder. The more irregular the bladder, the more unpredictable the behavior of the ball was when kicked. However ;  it would not be until the  twentieth  century  until  most balls were made with rubber bladders.

In 1855, Charles  Goodyear  designed and built the first vulcanized rubber soccer balls (footballs).

In   the  1862,  H.J.  Lindon   developed   one   of   the  first
inflatable  rubber  bladders  for  balls.  Tragically  his wife
previously   died   from   lung   disease.  Reportedly  from
blowing  up  many   hundreds  of  pig's  bladders.  Lindon
was  probably  inspired  to  develop  the inflatable rubber
bladder   because  of  the  ill effects  of  blowing  up  pig's
bladders. The  balls  with  the  rubber  bladders  ensured
that the ball remained hard and oval.

In 1863 the newly formed  English  Football  Association met to hammer out the laws of the game.  No description of the ball was offered in the first set of rules.  When the rules were revised in 1872 it was agreed that the ball  " must be spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches" (68.6 cm to 71.1 cm). That rule remains in today's FIFA laws.

That rule remains in  today's FIFA laws. Very  little  has  ever been written about the ball, probably  because it has remained very much the same over the years.

The circumference shall not be more than 28 in., nor less than 27 in, while  the  weight at the start  of  the game  must not be more that 16 oz., nor less than 14 oz."

Mass  production  of  soccer  balls  started as a direct consequence of the English Football League that was founded in 1888. Mitre  and  Thomlinson's  of  Glasgow were two of the first companies to mass  produce  soccer balls during that time.  They touted that  the  key  element  in  a  quality  football was how well it could retain it's shape. Strength of the leather and the skills  of  the  cutters  and  stitchers were the main factors in producing a football that would retain it's shape. The top grade covers were made with leather from the rump of a cow while lower quality balls were made from the shoulder.

By the  1900's  bladders  were  made  with  stronger  rubber and could  withstand heavier pressure.  Most  balls  produced  by  that  time used rubber bladders. The balls  were made  from  inner  tubes  covered  with heavy brown leather.  These balls would bounce easier and yet could be kicked.
Most   balls   had  a  tanned   leather  cover  with eighteen
sections stitched together arranged in six panels of three
strips   each.  Each   section   was   stitched   together   by
hand  with  five-ply  hemp  and  a  small  lace-up  slit  was
on one side. All of the  stitching   was  done  with  the  ball
cover    inside    out.   Once  completed,   the   cover   was
reversed  with  the  stitching on  the inside.  An un-inflated
bladder  was  then  inserted through the slit.  A long  stem
neck (aperture) extending from the  bladder was used  to
inflate the ball.  Once inflated, the  tube  was  inserted  through  the 15 cm slit and then the opening was laced up tight. You  can  imagine  how often that these soccer balls had to re-inflated.  Even during a game.

These  balls  were  good  for  kicking  but  was  painful  when  heading  due to the heavy stitching and the water absorption characteristics  of  the leather. Water absorption of the leather during rain made the ball very heavy and caused many head injuries.  Other problems  of  the  old  leather  balls were the various quality of cowhides used. Footballs varied in thickness and quality and the leather often degraded during the match.

The  soccer  ball  may  have even played a part in the outcome of the first world cup in 1930.  Argentina and Uruguay could not agree on which ball to use.  So they decided to use an  Argentinean  ball the first half and a ball supplied by Uruguay in the second half. As it turned out, Argentina was ahead at halftime 2-1using their soccer ball.  However; Uruguay came back to win the match in the second half 4-2 using their ball!

During World War II there were further production enhancements. The addition of a carcass made  of  strong  cloths  between  the  bladder and outer cover made controlling the shape easier, provided  damping, and made the  ball  stronger.  However ; soccer balls  played  a crucial  role in the outcome of matches due to the ball actually bursting during a game. The reason for the low quality balls just after  World War II  was  blamed on  the poor quality of the leather covers.

Water absorption was improved by using synthetic paints
and other  non-porous materials to coat the leather.  Also,
a  new   type  of  valve  was  invented  that  eliminated  the
laced  slit on soccer balls.

In 1951 a white ball was first permitted to help spectators
see  the  ball  easier  with  the advent of floodlights. White
soccer  balls  were  un-officially  used  as  early  as  1892.
The  leather  was  simply  white  washed  to  produce  the
white ball. Orange  balls  were  also first introduced in the
1950's to help see the ball in the snow.

Different  countries  favored  different  types  of  soccer  balls  in  the  early  days  of international soccer.  This caused much controversy. FIFA standardized the size, weight and type of balls with the introduction of an international board.
© 2005-2008. Barrie Spirit Soccer
Soccer  Ball