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Fair Trade Sports Balls

Why Buy Fair Trade?
Introduction - What's Fair About Fair Trade? - A Fair Living Wage - The Making of Soccer Balls

FAQs Talon Sports        Profile of our supplier, Talon Sports


The following information includes a summary of what Amnesty International says about Fair Trade sports ball production, especially soccer balls. You can visit their web site at http://store.amnesty.ie/home/footballs

The link between Fair Trade and soccer balls is child labour. According to recent reports, thousands of children in India and Pakistan are involved in the production of soccer balls. Workers in both countries are earning wages much lower than the legal minimum and basic human rights are routinely neglected. Another 250 million children around the world and many of their families share the life of exploitation.

"I have been stitching balls for as long as I can remember," confided Greeta, a young girl from Jalandhar, who estimated her age to be between 10 and 12 years old. "My hands are constantly in pain. It feels like they are burning. There is nothing I can do. I have to help my older sister complete the order."

Most children are forced into labour to help their families survive. Ball stitching becomes home based family work where a middle man, acting on behalf of a sporting goods manufacturer, provides the ball pieces for in-home production. While helping their parents, many of the children miss out on their education, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and uneducated labour.

The average daily earning of an adult male in ball stitching is around 20 rupees, about one-third of the Indian minimum wage of 63 rupees. The wages of children are even lower. When we talk about child labour, we are referring to something intolerable. Children are denied the right to be children and denied basic rights of education, recreation and health. The International Labour Organization estimates there are more than 15 000 children stitching soccer balls in Pakistan. With the negative publicity, it is now suspected that some of the industry has moved to China and elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.

What's fair about Fair Trade?
Products that carry a Fair Trade label have been certified that their manufacturing process meets certain social, economic and environmental standards. Our sports balls carry the Transfair Canada label which means that companies like Talon has agreed to meet the expectations of the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO) and to co-operate fully with their monitoring teams when they visit. The manufacturer's price includes a "fair-trade premium", about 20% which is to be used for improvement of the socio-economic situation of the workers, their families and communities. Workers and management decide jointly on the use of the premium such as providing an after-school program or a community clinic.. The employer must have the commitment and capacity to administer the fair trade premium in a way that is transparent and democratic for workers and the FLO.

A Fair Living Wage
Under the Fair Trade scheme the calculation is that a family should have 6,000 Pakistani rupees per month to cover all basic needs and have some 'money on the side'. Fair stitching wages are calculated to provide - if Fair Trade orders are there all the time - individual incomes of more than Rs. 3.000/month (i.e. two earners are needed per family to reach the Fair Trade minimum). It is not enough to simply bar children from working; the fair living wage ensures that the children have enough family support to succeed at school. Nevertheless, children under 15 are not employed, and the labour of children between 15 and 18 must not interfere with education.

The Making of Soccer Balls
FIFA standard balls are hand-stitched. In a size 5 ball, there are 690 stitches. As each of the five-sided pieces of polyurethane artificial leather are stitched to the others, the ball's sphere gradually closes. So, the last number of stitches are done "blind". That is, they use a pair of long needle-pullers, threading between stitches that they have already made, because they cannot get their hands inside the ball. At the same time, they have to be careful that they do not puncture the butyl air bladder inside. For the higher-quality balls, each stitch has to be pulled and tied at a tension of 40 kilograms. Only a human being can do all this! Eighty percent of the world's stitched soccer balls are made in the Sialkot region of Pakistan, where our supplier, Talon Sports, is located.

Over 50 international soccer ball brands rely on Sialkot to meet their customer demand and in 1997, the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce entered into an agreement with the International Labour Organization and UNICEF for the elimination of child labour from the soccer ball industry. The agreement is known as the Atlanta Agreement. With ILO monitoring, the various initiatives to eliminate child labour are showing results in lower school dropout rates and increased school enrolment.

In 1998, FIFA, the governing body for international soccer, established a code of conduct to prohibit the use of child labour and to require decent working conditions for adult workers. However available evidence points to routine violations of the code by manufacturers.

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