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Do Fans Get To Keep Soccer Balls?

Do Fans Get To Keep Soccer Balls?

Buying match tickets to view soccer events doesn’t exempt fans from obeying rules and regulations put in place by authorities in soccer stadiums to ensure the safety and smooth flow of soccer matches.

It is good to do personal research as a soccer fan to understand stadium rules and regulations before attending competitions. This will keep you away from possible trouble with stadium security operatives.

During soccer matches, certain actions can get you thrown out of the stadium or even arrested. Most times, fans get in the bad books of stadium security out of mere ignorance or exuberance. Soccer fan’s codes of conduct can be easily found online for free.

Every now and then we see soccer players fire shots into the stand and spectators scamper to catch it. In 2012, a stray shot from Wayne Rooney flew into the stand and dislocated a nine-year-old boy’s arm.

Perhaps, seeing the fans jostle to catch the ball will make you wonder if the lucky fan that gets hold of it will get to keep it. Well, many people think the same especially after seeing the excitement on the faces of the fans as they leap for the ball.

Well, today, we have set out to answer all the questions pertaining to keeping the ball by soccer fans. Keep reading to find out if fans can keep or return match day balls when they stray into the stand.

Do fans get to keep soccer balls?

Soccer balls often get played into the fan’s stand on two common occasions, the first being when a player misses the target of the goalpost and the second being when a defender has nowhere else to shoot the ball when trying to clear the ball from the goal line.

Oftentimes, you see the fans throwing the ball back to the closest match official which might push you into questioning why they couldn’t just keep it since many soccer balls are used during a soccer match.

From our findings, we discovered that it is mandatory for soccer fans to return balls to officials after it is mistakenly played at them. In some leagues like the Major League Soccer (MLS), written policies are drafted, fully explaining to fans the importance of returning a soccer ball as well as the consequences of keeping them.

On some special occasions, soccer fans can be allowed to keep matchday balls. For example, in a situation where a player intentionally kicks the soccer ball at fans out of anger or frustration, or when a ball is gifted to a fan by a player or a match official during or after a game.

The rules pertaining to the return of balls by fans are more relaxed or may not even exist during friendly matches and charity soccer competitions. During charity competitions, fans are often rewarded with charity match balls which aren’t as standard as professional soccer balls.

The fans are very excited when the ball straight into the stands

Below are detailed reasons why professional soccer balls must be returned to match officials after it goes into the fan’s stand during a match.

Limited Number of Soccer Balls

Imagine a scenario where each time a soccer ball goes into the fan’s stand, whoever catches it gets to keep it. Did you just picture how many soccer balls will be given out at each match, owing to the frequency at which balls are kicked into the stand?

In the early years of soccer, only three soccer balls were available for each match. In those days, there were no ball boys or girls, the linesmen and match officials were responsible for fetching the balls back to the playing field.

Back then, fans often played selfish tricks with the ball when their side was winning. They hid the ball amongst themselves when it entered the stands and pretended like they never saw it just to waste valuable match time and also to frustrate opposing teams.

South Americans and some other parts of the world have a common tradition where they present the match balls to the most valuable player, match officials, and the host cities at the end of the match as souvenirs.

Also, it is a common practice for the player that scores a hat trick in a game to keep the match ball. The center referee will hand them the ball as a souvenir.

Trying to keep matchday soccer balls to yourself in these modern times isn’t as easy as before because cameras are everywhere in the stadium monitoring everything.

Although more balls are used now in soccer matches than before, it is still not feasible to give out soccer balls to soccer fans each time it enters the stand.

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Soccer Balls Are Very Expensive

Professional soccer balls are made from Polyurethane which is why they cost more money to produce—unlike baseball which isn’t expensive. This is why fans are allowed to keep balls during baseball games.

Fans can’t keep matchday balls because professional soccer ball is quite expensive. Clubs can’t afford to be giving out balls to fans at every point of contact. Their budget will be strained and the club’s profitability will decline if they ever attempt to do that.

Perhaps, when balls become less expensive, officials may consider leaving them with fans when they go into the stand. For now, they must return the balls in their possession before exiting the stadium.

Commercial Sponsorship Contracts

Most big sports accessories companies sponsor major soccer leagues with money, soccer balls, and other accessories as a way of promoting their brand and products. Publicity like that will help increase their sales and boost their brand’s image.

Teams that receive such sponsorships must obey the terms of the contract. One of the major rules of such contracts is that the teams involved must use the company’s products throughout the contract.

If teams freely give out sponsorship balls to fans, they will eventually run out of that brand of balls before the end of the contract which may lead to what is termed breach of contract. That is one of the reasons why fans must return matchday balls.

Are soccer fans allowed to keep the ball?

Like we earlier mentioned in the articles, soccer fans can only be allowed by match officials to keep soccer balls in special instances.

Soccer fans can keep matchday balls if it is given to them as a gift after a soccer match. It is more common for soccer fans to receive ball gifts in friendly matches and charity competitions than in major league games and tournaments.

Gestures like this are often avoided in professional soccer to avoid scenarios where fans might be tempted to struggle for possession of the ball thereby leading to violence and injury.

Soccer players can give out matchday balls to fans after a match although it is very rare. Levante UD’s striker Roberto Soldado Rillo once kicked the matchday soccer ball into the fan stand after a match but the ball landed on a different segment of the stadium.

Another special instance where a fan can keep a soccer ball is when the ball is deflated, the skin is torn, or it has another issue that makes it unfit for use in a tournament.

During or after a soccer match, if a soccer ball isn’t willingly given to you, you mustn’t try to take it by force because you may embarrass yourself. In severe cases, you may even be banned from watching matches at the stadium for some time.


Professional soccer balls are of high quality and very durable which is why they are often used in more than one soccer match.

Sometimes, balls get changed only when they are damaged or have lost air. This should also give you a hint on why you should always return soccer balls while in the stadium.

Spectators are required to return soccer balls to ball boys/girls or match officials when they enter the stand. You shouldn’t go to the stadium, hoping to go home with a free matchday ball. If you are caught (and you most likely will), stadium security may throw you out. Imagine how embarrassing that can be.