According to the SFA the beautiful game should be all about fairness and respect for players and for fans – as it should be. But what about the people who make the balls we all take for granted? They don’t always get a fair go. That’s why Bala Sport was set-up – to level the playing field for the factory workers and skilled hand-stitchers in Pakistan who produce our balls.
It used to be that children were used to stitch footballs at home being paid a pittance to do the painstaking work . This often resulted in them sustaining back injuries whilst stooping on low stools and straining their eyes to make sure the stitching was done correctly. They would also suffer from cuts from the large needles used. Thankfully since an outcry in the mid 1990s child labour has been stamped out and the work is now done only by adults. It’s skilled work and should be fairly rewarded – that’s what Bala does – through Fairtrade we pay a fair price and ensure fair and safe working conditions – but not everyone else does.
We also pay an additional 10% Fairtrade Premium for the workers to decide amongst themselves on what development projects to invest this cash payment in.
At our factory a Fair Price shop was set up using the Fairtrade Premium to help the workers and their families afford essential food and household items.
Bala balls are made at a factory In Sialkot in the Punjab, in Pakistan. 70% of all the world’s hand-stitched footballs are made in Sialkot. The big brands like Nike, Puma and Adidas have their balls made there – some are even made in the same factories as Fairtrade certified balls like ours. The big brands can obviously place large orders, so it’s not surprising that less than 8% of balls made in the factory Bala uses for instance are made to Fairtrade standards. This means that most of the time the factory workers and men and women employed in the hand-stitching centres earn considerably less than they do when they’re making Bala balls. That’s why it’s essential that the Bala brand is a success – so that we can start to increase the number of Fairtrade sports balls from less than 1% of balls worldwide so that more people in Pakistan can benefit from Fairtrade.
This is not the only thing that’s different about Bala Sport. We’re a Glasgow based industrial and provident society which doesn’t take profits from the business – set-up with help from the Co-operative Glasgow Development Fund. As well as levelling the playing field for the workers in Pakistan – our aim is also to bring people here at home from all backgrounds together through sport. We’re in the very early stages of this game and we’re having our current batch of training and match balls trialled by the likes of the players and Youth Academy at St Mirren along with their excellent Street Stuff programme team. The more Bala balls we can sell – the more orders we can place helping more people in Pakistan – and the more amateur clubs and tournaments we can support. So help us spread the word about Bala on social media and let’s make the beautiful game even better.
There’s no reason why even the higher level of the game shouldn’t be played with Fairtrade certified balls. FIFA doesn’t allow the Fairtrade Mark or any other mark on FIFA Approved or FIFA Inspected balls – but they do allow the International Matchball Standard (IMS) to be used. Fairtrade certified balls can be made to exactly the same specifications as the big brands’ high end balls – where there’s a will there’s a way!
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