The Fairtrade Football Story

The manufacturing of quality footballs has changed little since the 1960s when leather balls where phased out in favour of plastic and artificial materials but the actual process of making footballs, stitching the panels together by hand, has changed little over decades. The stitching process of making a football is still typified by high levels of human labour; all good quality footballs are hand as opposed to machine stitched and it takes a day for a good football stitcher to make just 4 -5 footballs.

Fairtrade Football Stitcher


This is why the football industry has been tainted by accusations of child labour and poverty wages. A UNICEF report from 1998 pointed out that football stitchers in Pakistan where receiving  as little as 20 pence per ball and child labour was endemic  in the industry.

The challenge for Fairtrade football production was to challenge the twin evils of poverty wages and child labour while positively engaging with producer factories to develop  best Fairtrade practice.  This was relatively easily done by improving the wages of adult football stitchers (what parent would send their children to work if they didn’t have to?) and by applying a Fairtrade football premium to every ball made. Even though each ball raises relatively small amounts in premiums, the multiple nature of the business meant that premiums rapidly built up to form a fund that can widely support health and welfare projects for workers and their families in Pakistan.

To date Fairtrade football premiums have paid for a modern medical clinic with two full time doctors and free prescription medicines. The premiums also pay for microcredit loans so that Fairtrade football stitchers can start their own small businesses and ultimately leave the export economy. Examples and case studies outlining how Fairtrade premiums are spent can be found on our web site.

Fairtrade football premiums have pay for two full time Doctors

While the vast majority of footballs are hand stitched in Pakistan the encroachment of non hand stitched balls is well under way and moulded balls used in recent tournaments have  drawn huge amounts of criticisms from players and managers, not least for their apparent inability to fly straight.

Buy a Fairtrade Football and support the local community in Pakistan

To watch a video about the Fairtrade Football story watch the video here

An ETHLETIC Fairtrade Football


Fairtrade in Scotland

As part of their Fairtrade Fortnight celebrations the Scottish Fair Trade Forum (SFTF) invited me to Edinburgh for a day of talks and a wonderful junior Fairtrade football tournament. The SFTF has been a good customers of ours, we’ve created bespoke Fairtrade promotional footballs for them on two occasions.

The day kicked off quite literally with a Fairtrade football competition at Hopefield Primary School and involved four other primaries.  The eight teams were all named after African countries and in the spirit of equality every team included three girl players. I saw one girl score four excellent goals and wouldn’t be surprised to see her playing for Scotland in the future! Take a look at some of the photos here

Despite very strong winds and difficult conditions, all games were played sportingly and it was a pleasure to present the first Bonnyrigg Fairtrade Cup to the winning team – Ivory Coast.  Thanks to Jamie Dougal for officiating the contest so well and all the staff at Hopefield Primary.

Plans are afoot to replicate this contest next year nationally; over the whole of Scotland. We are of course looking forward to supporting this.

We then popped into nearby Lasswade High School where I was briefed on all of their Fairtrade activities, I then presented Fairtrade certificates to all of the pupils involved for promoting Fairtrade at the school.

After a lovely lunch provided by the kind people of Nicholas Buccleuch coffee shop, Dalkeith we went on to Newbattle Abbey College were we met by James Dolan, a campaigning student who is doing his best to change the college’s purchasing policy in favour of Fairtrade, After delivering a talk on the Fairtrade football story I left discount vouchers for all of the students who attended my talk. Thanks to James Dolan for setting up the talk and also for showing us around the college and good luck with getting Fairtrade products into Newbattle Abbey College.

Our final meeting of the day was at Penicuik Athletic Football Club, where I talked to the club management about the story behind Fairtrade footballs and we were even joined by local MSP Claudia Beamish.  A photo shoot was arranged on the pitch, thanks to Jim Dick for providing these pictures.

Jamie with the Team Management of Penicuik Athletic Football Club

Jamie with the Team Management of Penicuik Athletic Football Club

So overall a very positive day in and around Edinburgh, it was great to see how many supporters of Fairtrade there were in Scotland. Thanks to Martin Meteyard for organising the whole day and Ian Miller for his generous hospitality.

For more information on the Scottish Fair Trade Forum visit 

For more information on Fairtrade visit the Fairtrade Foundation