It happens quite often in the world of soccer: the player takes the ball, shoots at goal, and their immense strength results in the ball flying into the stands behind the goal.
But what happens after that? Do the fans get to keep it as they do in baseball, for example? Unfortunately, soccer isn’t as giving when it comes to balls.
According to the rules of soccer, the ball has to be thrown back onto the field by the fans, whether to the ball boy or the goalkeeper, and the game simply resumes after that. But why don’t these lucky spectators just keep the ball as a souvenir like they do in other sports?
In this article, we’re going to answer this question, as well as others that may cross your mind regarding this topic, so read on!
Reasons You Can’t Keep a Soccer Ball at a Game
Fans cannot keep a soccer ball for several reasons, and we’ve divided them into four main points, which we will discuss in-depth.
The More You Keep the Ball, the Less the Playing Time
The number of game balls available in a game was restricted many years ago. This resulted in instances where stadium officials had to fetch balls before resuming the game.
So, a dirty tactic emerged in which home team fans would hold on to the balls longer than necessary in order to waste time for the opposing away team if it was trailing behind.
WOn the other hand, when ball girls and boys were introduced, they made soccer a quicker and more fluid sport. Since these individuals are all around the stadium, all fans can do now is cooperate with them by giving the balls back to them as fast as they can, so that they don’t interrupt the game’s flow.
Maintaining Game Consistency and Equality
Ball manufacturers generally sign lucrative sponsorship contracts with league bodies to guarantee team equality so that clubs can count on using the same balls in games that they are used to using in training.
When players get a good grasp of a ball’s characteristics over time, they are able to establish a stronger game rhythm in terms of passing and shooting.
When the ball is kicked out, the replacement given by a ball boy is an equal alternative, allowing the game to continue without players having to adjust to a new ball’s aerodynamics and ground movements.
Soccer Balls Are Not Cheap
Balls also cost a lot of money for clubs and sponsors (an average of $100 each), so you can guess that losing them won’t be such a fun experience for them.
But in sports such as baseball and cricket, it’s so inexpensive to make the balls that leagues and clubs do not have to bother chasing spectators around trying to return them since there are so many and they can easily get more.
In those sports, teams can have plenty of balls ready to be thrown into action at any time.
Returning the Ball is Customary Among Fans
Unlike other sports — such as baseball, which allows fans to keep balls hit at them as souvenirs — soccer fans can’t just opt to keep something that isn’t legally theirs, association soccer follows different rules.
First and foremost, referees have complete discretion over whether or not a replacement ball can be used during a game. This is because according to the game laws, game balls cannot be changed without the express permission of a center official.
As a result, if the referee deems that the current ball in use is fit for purpose, spectators will have no choice but to return it to the field, as its use is still necessary for the game to resume and end.
It’s also a matter of basic etiquette because keeping the ball in such a scenario would be considered uncivil.
Is there Any Way I Can Keep the Ball?
Usually, the answer is no. As mentioned earlier, returning the ball is often seen as a common courtesy towards the owners of the ball who want it back.
Some leagues even have rules requiring fans to return the soccer ball to game day staff
The soccer ball is usually part of a club’s sponsorship agreement. They also provide each club in the league with a specific number of soccer balls that team members can use during a game, as well as some balls used for practice purposes (albeit these are not of the same high quality as game day balls).
The reason that companies give balls to clubs is that these companies expect to profit from them when they are sold in retail stores, which is why teams and leagues are insistent that the balls be returned since the company that gave them the balls wants them to stay in the team’s hands as a form of advertising for the company.
But every rule has an exception. There are some instances when fans are permitted to keep soccer balls that enter the stands, but it is customary to throw the balls back during regular competitive games.
When playing a friendly game between two teams, the rules for returning balls are less strict, and the same goes for charity games.
This is due to the fact that for the most part, a special ball is used for charity games, and spectators get to keep some of the balls as part of the game-day experience.
Fans may even be allowed to keep soccer balls that they end up catching if they are attending a testimonial game for a former player. This is where some of the former player’s teammates get together to form two teams and play a soccer game in honor of that player.
At the end of the day, though, most fans will return the ball to its owners if they ever happen to catch one during a game, but game day officials are less strict than in testimonial games due to the enthusiasm that comes with honoring a player’s long career.
Keeping World Cup Balls
Again, you usually can’t keep a ball that makes its way to your seat at a World Cup. This is for the same reasons why you can’t keep a ball in any regular games.
Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.