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How many times have we seen it? A player picks up the ball, drives at goal, and his shot sails over the crossbar and ten rows deep into the crowd.
More often than not, the ball is promptly thrown back onto the field or to an official, but does it have to be? Can you in fact keep a soccer ball that goes into the stands? Read on to find out.
When a soccer ball does go into the stands, it is a tradition that the fans return the ball to the field or a match official.
For some leagues around the world, there is a written policy regarding this. In the MLS, the code of conduct states that the league fully expects fans to return the soccer ball quickly and safely to stadium staff or people on the sidelines.
We will now go through some of the reasons why balls are given back when they go into the stands and if it is ok to keep them if they do.
Can you keep a soccer ball that goes into the stands?
As mentioned earlier, usually the answer is no as it is often seen as a tradition for the fans to throw the ball back into play, whether that be to a match official or a player or ball boy.
Some leagues around the world have rules in place for fans so that they must return the soccer ball to matchday staff. However just because it is a rule, does not mean that people do not break the rules.
Normally the soccer ball is a part of a club’s sponsorship agreement and this means that the company that makes and supplies the balls gives money to the soccer teams league.
They do this as well as giving a certain amount of soccer balls that can be used during a match for every team in that league as well as some balls for practice however these are not as high a quality as matchday balls.
The reason the companies do in fact give balls to the league is so that they can make money off those balls when they are made available for sale at retail stores and that is why teams are adamant for the balls to be given back because the company that has given them to the team does not want fans to take them away from the teams that they supply.
There are some examples where fans are allowed to keep soccer balls that do go into the stands, however for regular competitive matches the custom is to throw the balls back.
If there is a friendly match between two teams then the rules are not as strict when it comes to returning balls and the same goes for charity matches as well.
This is because most of the time a special ball is used for charity matches and that is part of the whole matchday experience that fans get to keep some of the balls.
Another reason fans might be able to keep soccer balls that go into the stands is that if they are attending a testimonial match for a beloved former player.
This is where some of the former player’s teammates all get together and form two sides and play a soccer match as a tribute to that said player.
Although most fans will still give the balls back, the matchday officials are not as strict as Premier League matches because of the euphoria that comes with celebrating that player’s glorious career.
Can you keep a soccer ball that goes into the stands at a World Cup?
Again the answer is usually no and it is customary for fans to give the ball back to the matchday staff or other officials.
The main reason for this is because soccer balls cost a bit of money, normally around $100 so that is why clubs want them back, because of the cost.
Whereas in other sports such as cricket and baseball, because the balls are made at such a low cost, the teams and leagues do not really worry about chasing fans to give the balls back as they are extremely cheap to produce.
Also, teams have hundreds of balls ready to go to be played with because they are so cheap.
But if you look at the English Premier League, with balls costing anywhere more than $100 then it is easy to see why clubs would want the balls back because it is a far more expensive ball to reproduce than a simple baseball or cricket ball.
What happens to a soccer ball after a World Cup?
For a World Cup, balls are specially designed for each tournament. This makes them essentially one of a kind and they can end up being really valuable, especially for the ball that is used in the World Cup final.
Over 3,000 balls are used. 20 are used for each match and they are all individualized for each match and for each team.
So what happens to the soccer balls once the World Cup tournament is over? Usually, the soccer balls are then used as souvenirs for all of the teams and referees that played a part in the tournament.
Also, the used soccer balls are given to the countries that played a part in the World Cup and are given specifically to the marketing teams of the countries but not all national teams do this.
If they do, FIFA expects the national teams to run promotion campaigns so that fans can get a chance to win one of those prized soccer balls.
However, most of the national team’s FA’s end up getting the special balls rather than all the young fans but sometimes players are given them as souvenirs too as a memento of the occasion.