The Premier League's New Flight Ball: A History of PL Balls

The Premier League's New Flight Ball: A History of PL Balls

Following Nike’s release of the Premier League’s new Flight Ball, the upcoming campaign will be the 22nd season that the American brand has been the provider of match balls for the English top-flight, going as far back as the Mitre Pro Max in 1992.

The latest of the Flight Ball series uses a more modernised pattern, as it is more fluid around the sphere of the individual panels, with Nike also updating the Flight graphic to represent the landscape of the Premier League in 2021. Nike have used a colour scheme of a white base, a black cage with crimson circles overlapping the panels of the ball.

The new Premier League ball for the 2021/22 season will be the 18th in Premier League history, due to the first five footballs all being used for more than one season each between 1992 and 2008 before Nike’s Total Omni ball was released, becoming the first design in the history of Premier League balls to last just one campaign.

1992-1995: Mitre Pro Max

The Mitre Pro Max was the first football ever to be used in the Premier League and it had a fairly modest design, with very little colour and creativity on it, as it was predominantly white, with an orange ‘V’ patterns on it. This is a classic football due to its basic design, which perhaps signals a sign of the time, as the Premier League brand was just starting up.

1995-2000: Mitre Ultimax

Again, it was another Mitre ball that would follow, as Nike released the new Premier League ball back in 1995 for the start of the 1995/96 season of which Blackburn Rovers were the defending champions at the time.

The Mitre Ultimax is the longest-serving ball in the history of the Premier League, having lasted all the way up to the start of the millennium. This ball is more branded than the first of the Premier League series, as it has the official Premier League logo on it, rather than in writing, as well as the fact that it has colours that are symbolic of England’s Football League system in red and blue on the ‘V’ patterns.

2000-02: Nike Geo Merlin and Geo Merlin Vapor

2000 saw the most drastic change in Premier League footballs to date, as eventually Nike left the brand Mitre behind and chose to name this ball as the Geo Merlin and Geo Merlin Vapor, with its logo taking the middle of the ball, with the Premier League logo just above the symbolic tick.

This football was said to be the “roundest ball ever” at the time of its release, as the Geo technology allowed the ball to be pumped out into a circular shape, whereas the Mitre balls had leather panelling, whilst the Vapor model was also said to have reduced drag on shot power.


2004-2006: Nike Total 90 Aerow I

As Arsenal entered the 2004/05 season as Premier League champions for the last time in their history having gone a season unbeaten, the Nike Total 90 Aerow made itself known, as the Total 90 era kicked off with Nike’s Brazil versus Portugal commercial.

At this period of time, it had become common for national sides, most notably, the two mentioned above to have their shirt numbers in a ring on the front of their shirts, this was also common on players boots with the Total 90 brand growing quickly as the latest trend in football fashion. According to Nike, the ring pattern was introduced on the football so that players could see the spin of the ball clearly, Chelsea would go on to win both league titles whilst this ball was in use.


2006-2008: Nike Total Aerow II & 2008/09: Nike Total 90 Omni

At the start of the 2006/07 season, Manchester United were looking for a new lease of life under Sir Alex Ferguson, having not won the league title since 2003 following their dominance between the start of the Premier League era until then, they would go on to win three league titles in a row between 2006 and 2009, whilst Nike completely changed their design from the initial Total 90 design to one with an asymmetrical blue pattern between 2006 and 2008, before switching it up to red and embedding the iconic Nike swoosh in the design for the first-ever time.


2009/2010: Nike Total 90 Ascent

The 2009/10 season Nike Total 90 Ascent ball is perhaps the most complex design in the history of Premier League balls until the Premier League ball of 2021/22.

Having had such a simplistic pattern, Nike developed what was a nice-looking football, but, it was very busy to look at, as the American company used micro-texture and ‘RaDar’ technology on the design of the ball before eventually stripping the ball back to more simple patterns for the upcoming 2010/11 season.

Steven Gerrard Wayne Rooney

2010/2011: Nike Total 90 Tracer, 2011/2012: Nike Seitiro & 2012/13: Nike Maxim

As mentioned above, Nike’s Total 90 Tracer ball was a much more basic design than the previous season’s, however, it is a classic ball, as Nike used their trademark colour of Volt green on the ball.

The Nike Seitiro saw them opt for a more electronic look with some cool looking patterns coupled with a vibrant colour scheme of light blue, dark blue, black and orange and will be forever remembered by Manchester City fans for the Aguero goal against QPR in the dying moments of the final day of the 2011/12 season that saw City win their first league title since 1968 ahead of rivals Manchester United.

Meanwhile, the 2012/13 design for the Nike Maxim is very much a hybrid of the two previous mentioned balls, with Nike using a ‘fractulated’ glass look for the pattern.


2013/14: Nike Incyte

The Nike Incyte is the next ball to feature, which was a purple and orange colour scheme that kicked off the start of Nike’s current era of using more and more creative colour designs.

Steven Gerrard

2014-2018: Nike Ordem Era

Between the years 2014 and 2018, Nike released four different types of Nike Ordems for each season, starting with the Ordem 2. Nike’s new ball was deemed revolutionary, as they used fluorescent colours over the grooves of the ball, with some of them even being welded.

For the start of the 2015/16 season, Nike decided to make the grooves jet black, going for traditional hexagon shapes with the ball fading from red to white. Their black grooves idea from the Ordem 3 was then turned into a caged look with larger hexagons on the Ordem 4 and Ordem I, with firstly a “Flow Motion” pattern on the initial ball, before putting a red ring around the ball for the following season that would underlap the dark cage, whilst bring back fluorescent flickers to the ball for the 2017/18 campaign.

Sergio Aguero Manchester City

2018-2020: Nike Merlin Returns

The start of the 2018/19 season saw the return of the Nike Merlin, which saw a drastic change in terms of design and the colour scheme of the ball, as for the initial season, they re-shaped the cage look and added an equaliser pattern that had become prominent on various different kits they manufactured, with the base of the ball being white, whilst the pattern was sky blue and fluorescent yellow.

Nike’s design for the start of the 2019/20 season completely changed, as they made the ‘Tunnel Vision’ ball which is in the same colour scheme as last season’s Nike Flight ball, as well as releasing a smart-looking retro winter ball inspired by their Total 90 days to mark 20 years of producing balls for the Premier League.

Eden Hazard Chelsea

2020/21: Nike Flight

The Premier League ball which was used last season also has the same colour scheme as the 2019/20 ball, as well as the Premier League ball in the 2021/22 season, as Nike have evidently opted to use a colour scheme of black, white and orange. “In flight-instrumentation” was used to make this ball, as well as there being “Angular Chevrons” around a reshaped cage and this pattern has been used to signify that the Premier League is the fastest league in the world. The 2020/21 Premier League ball is thought to have a 30% truer flight than that of the previous season.

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