Nike Drop ‘Game-Changing’ Flight Ball for 2020/21 Premier League Season

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The new Nike Flight promises 30% truer flight

Nike have dropped the new, futuristic-looking Flight ball which promises a ‘measurable’ 30% truer flight compared to its predecessors.

The striking, almost brain-like appearance of the ball – which will feature in the Premier League, La Liga and beyond for the 2020/21 season – has been eight years in the making, with thousands of lab hours, testing from over 800 professional athletes, 68 geometrical iterations and even one robotic leg going into to the process at the Nike Innovation Lab.

The result of all that work in science-y terms is a four-panelled, fuse-welded skin with fewer ‘stiff seams’, patented AerowSculpt grooves and the use of Nike All Conditions control 3D ink ‘micro flaps’ – all of which helps with drag by ‘promoting air movement around the ball rather than gripping its surface’.

As a result of the improved aerodynamics and reduced wobble, the big claim is that the ball has 30% truer, more consistent flight than its predecessor the Geo Merlin.

“[There’s a] far greater sweet spot, superior performance and touch,” Nike’s senior director for global equipment in soccer Kieran Ronan tells 90min.

But what change will this mean, on the pitch, for raking passes, whipped free kicks and long-range howitzers?

Ronan says: “The game itself has changed so dramatically over the years, where the level of fitness – we’ve added words like recovery, wellness, nutrition – the whole eco-system around all athletes across the globe has changed.

The four-panelled ball features moulded grooves to prevent inconsistencies in flight
The four-panelled ball features moulded grooves to prevent inconsistencies in flight

“In relation to long balls and shots, the goal is to create an additional level of fairness for the player that there is that comfort level and boot to ball it’s going to do what they are asking it to do.

“How things develop and change will be told in the coming months on the pitch.

“Boot to ball, it’s going to do what the players are asking it to do”

“Our job is to – at a minimum – keep pace with the game and hopefully be even faster than [the game] to keep everything moving forward.”

As well as working with hundreds of real human athletes, part of the process for designing the geometry of the ball is a robotic leg, which has been part of Nike’s lab for four years and has helped to ‘iterate at a greater pace’.

“We go out and talk with the athletes and gather their information,” Ronan explains. “The engineers and scientists here in the lab then feed their information into the system.

“We’re able to monitor the rate of spin, the speed, direction and everything.

“Thankfully the [robotic] leg doesn’t wear itself out. If you ask a player to kick a ball 1,000 times, the results are going to vary significantly.”

“Our job is to – at a minimum – keep pace with the game and hopefully be even faster”

With such a focus on aerodynamics and consistency of flight, this promises in Nike’s own press release to be a ‘game-changing’ ball. As fans and professionals have experienced before *couch Jabulani cough* things don’t always go to plan and often the best balls – like referees – are the least noticed.

However, with Nike keen to show just how much work and science has gone into the Flight, this feels quite different.

The Flight ball has been eight years in the making
The Flight ball has been eight years in the making

“You put faith in everything that we do and the team. It takes a village,” Ronan says. “Everyone is lockstep all along the way in the strategy. We know exactly what it is we are trying to do.

“When you see the story behind it and the level of detail that’s gone into it; we strive to put the best product out at all times and continuously look to keep that going forward into the future.”

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