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 Football at Edinburgh Uni

Edinburgh University People & Planet society celebrated World Fairtrade Day on May 12th with a Fairtrade football tournament on the Meadows. Last tournament’s runners up, the Edinburgh Revue Comedians, returned to take on People & Planet FC and English Literature Society who were making their debut appearance in the world of Fairtrade football.

Fairtrade Football in action at Edinburgh Uni

Fairtrade Football in action at Edinburgh Uni

On a rare sunny day in Edinburgh the three teams took time out from exam revision to compete for prizes of Fairtrade cava, honey ale and chocolates which were kindly donated by Scotmid Cooperative, and Fairtrade Ying Yang footballs donated by Fair Corp. Halftime bananas and brazil nuts were also provided by Equal Exchange.

Fairtrade Football Tournament at Edinburgh Uni

Fairtrade Football Tournament at Edinburgh Uni

The Comedians suffered an unlikely early defeat to the tournament’s underdogs, English Literature Society, but regained their composure to win three consecutive games to claim the title. People & Planet FC finished a close second after a couple of tense end-to-end matches, with their vocal support from the sidelines spurring them on to a 5-2 drubbing of Lit Soc.

Thanks to everyone involved and to Fair Corp for providing the Fairtrade Footballs.

Joel Sharples, Edinburgh University Student

For a Fairtrade football click here

Fairtrade Football Tournament at Edinburgh University

On Saturday March 3rd People & Planet at Edinburgh University hosted a Fairtrade football tournament to celebrate Fairtrade fortnight.

As part of a programme of events at the university that included Fairtrade chocolate truffle making, a Fairtrade café in the Chaplaincy and a keynote speech from Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, around 45 Edinburgh students shunned a Saturday morning lie-in in favour of the hallowed turf of The Meadows.

With groups as diverse as the Socialist Society, The Student newspaper and the Edinburgh Revue represented on the pitch there were rivalries to be stoked and old scores to settle, but most importantly the tournament brought Edinburgh’s student community together in mutual appreciation of the simple pleasures of a weekend kickabout in the park.

Eight mixed teams competed for the grand prize of a crate of Fairtrade honey ale, with the runners-up happy to walk away with a bottle of Fairtrade South African cava. The final was as close as they come with the skilful but wheezing Edinburgh Revue comedians just losing out on penalties to the tough-tackling and pacy Seager FC after a tense 1-1 draw.

The use of Fairtrade-certified footballs in the tournament was a gentle reminder of how much our everyday lives are intertwined with those of people who may live far away yet whose labour, and often exploitation, we depend on for our nutrition, work and leisure.

Fairtrade Football - ETHLETIC Premier Fairtrade Football

Fairtrade Football - ETHLETIC Premier Fairtrade Football

Football doesn’t have the best reputation as a sport, but that is usually due to the racism, sexism, homophobia and ostentatious materialism that are often associated with it. The provenance of the physical object on which the game depends is rarely considered, yet the tools of the trade of the Premier League superstars are manufactured by workers, usually in Pakistan or China, who earn less in a year than the footballers earn from one training session.

Through our celebration of Fairtrade football we hopefully brought a bit more attention to this fact and demonstrated that there is a fairer alternative. The beautiful game doesn’t have to have an ugly underbelly, and as the most popular sport in the world it is in a unique position to act as a vehicle of social change.

Guest Blog from Joel Sharples, Edinburgh University Student

Check out a Fairtrade Football now

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

Spotted - Our Fairtrade Balls in Co-op!

I was really pleased that Co-operative Food opened a new store at the top of my road in Brighton, they’re an ethical business like us, and they stock a great range of Fairtrade goods including great Fairtrade wines!

In the past we’ve supplied The Co-Operative with bespoke footballs and rugby balls, but I was surprised when the first thing I saw when I walked in was a big picture of some kids having fun with our Fairtrade rugby balls! We’re going to try and find out who and what this community group is.

Our Fairtrade Rugby Balls - Pictured in our local Co-operative Food

Our Fairtrade Rugby Balls - Pictured in our local Co-operative Food

Supermarkets should do more to stock Fairtrade products but we as customers need to show there is a strong demand for them. So next time you’re in the supermarket, make sure there’s lots of Fairtrade brands in your basket.

Check out our ethical Fairtrade rugby balls.

We also offer a promotional football / sports ball service for orders over 300 balls.

Tavernspite Kick Off Fairtrade Football Challenge

Year 2 Class

Tavernspite County Primary School has taken up a Fairtrade football challenge, after a return visit from Voluntary Fair Trade Wales School’s Speaker, Sharron Hardwick.

During a whole school assembly Sharron shared some football facts, noting the vast difference between the meagre 22p wages paid to some football stitchers per ball, compared to other football workers. Reporting on her experience working for Stoke City FC she comments on the large fees paid for players like Wayne Rooney who are rumoured to earn £120,000 per week.

“Fairtrade and football are often not linked. Working for a Premier League football club makes me feel even more responsible for speaking out about the unfair wages paid to football stitchers. We must act, support and buy Fairtrade in football; otherwise this unfairness will continue to go unnoticed.” said Sharron Hardwick.

The Fair Trade Wales assembly, and a Year 2 lesson, were taught the difference which Fairtrade makes. Fairtrade helps communities by providing premiums, monitoring working conditions and ensuring fair pay. A living wage is given so workers and producers can afford accommodation, health care and school fees; meaning children can go to school, rather than working to bridge the deficit.

Youngsters Working Hard

Sharron has high hopes of promoting Fairtrade in football, supported by Fair Trade Wales and Relief and Development Aid Agency Tearfund. Plans are to ask Pembrokeshire and Stoke–On-Trent schools, Church groups and amateur football clubs to support Fairtrade in football campaigns and use Fairtrade footballs.

If enough support is generated, Sharron will approach the Football Association asking them to consider using Fairtrade balls. The F.A. control which balls are used by football clubs in their games and could be using Fair Corp’s Fairtrade footballs.

“I have a dream to see 100% Fairtrade in football. This is a massive challenge! Local teams like Kilgetty A.F.C, Haverfordwest County and Tenby A.F.C have shown interest; now local schools are getting on board. I hope support will grow, and our desire for fairness is heard.” concludes Sharron.

Blog and photos by Sharron Hardwick.

Check out our range of Fairtrade Footballs or our producer stories to learn more about Fairtrade. 

Foals, Stars & Fairtrade Footballs

Foals and Seye Adelekan with Village Team (Photo Joe Impey)

Netball matches and football tournaments are generally far from the mind of most UK festival-goers, but then again the Lake of Stars festival nestled on the shores of Lake Malawi in Africa is no run of the mill event. This 3-day international multi-arts festival, which has been held in Mangochi on the southern end of Lake Malawi for the past 3 years of it’s 8 year history, welcomes artists and audiences from all around the world, and is almost entirely run by volunteers. This year’s festival hosted headliners including the Foals, Beverley Knight, Freshly Ground, The Very Best, Lucius Banda, The Black Missionaries, Baio (Vampire Weekend) and another 60 acts from various countries.

One of the most important areas of the festival’s work, and what makes it so unique, is the Lake of Stars Outreach programme; a series of musical, educational and sporting activities and events amongst the local community. The festival site lies within the boundaries of the Chipoka Village, and every year the festival team plan a range of outreach activities to happen in the village itself. We were hugely grateful to ETHLETIC who kindly responded to our request for help by donating an array of netballs and footballs – greatly valued in Malawi - and here’s how we used them!

The activities started with the much-anticipated annual ‘Nkopola Netball’ match between all the key partners in the festival. There was a team from the Village, a team of Lake of Stars staff, a team from Sunbird (the venue staff) and a team from the Bookbus (an educational initiative who took part in this years event). Netball is huge in Malawi, and is taken incredibly seriously. The team from Sunbird and the Village both took 2 netballs back with them to continue their dedicated practice in order to humiliate Lake of Stars’ team next year!

Girls from Lilongwe's Tililanu Orphanage (Photo Joe Impey)

The big event for the Outreach is a Saturday football tournament; the ‘Pamudzi Cup’. Coordinated alongside the Mangochi Youth Sport Association, it welcomes teams from all the surrounding areas and is a highly competitive event. The festival atmosphere extends out to the pitch with artists and press from the festival coming out to get involved. There were several performances using a sound system on the back of a truck; even headliners Foals and Seye Adelekan got stuck in and had a kick-about with one of the teams. The ETHLETIC gear was a much sought after prize with all the teams taking away a couple of Fairtrade footballs. The winning team took away an International Match standard ball as well.

Some of the ETHLETIC balls also found happy homes in the MOET Orphanage, a fantastic organisation in Mangochi. Many festival-goers visited the Tililanu Orphanage Choir from Lilongwe along with some of our star performers of the weekend as well. Our thanks go to everyone at ETHLETIC for the donations – netball and football are a national obsession and good quality balls are hard to come by, especially in rural areas. Your donations were much appreciated by many children across Malawi – and all of us at Lake of Stars!

Post by Eddie FitzPatrick, Production Manager for The Lake of Stars Festival

Futsal’s Coming Home

At long last, with thanks to support from the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ronaldino, Futsal is taking off in the UK. We have been very slow to adapt to this skillful variation of Association Football, which has been dominated by Brazil, and more recently, Spain.

Futsal is by no means new. In fact the essence of the game started way back in 1930 in Uruguay, although it was not actually called ‘Futsal’ until the term was coined by FIFUSA in 1985. Since then, several rule changes and improvements have been made, especially following FIFA’s takeover of the World Championships in 1989.

So What Is ‘Futsal’?

There are 5 players on each team, including the goalkeeper. The maximum number of substitutes allowed is 7, with unlimited substitutions during the match. Substitutes can come on even when the ball is in play.

The match is controlled by a referee, who enforces the Laws of the Game, and is assisted by a second referee. There is also a third referee and a timekeeper.

The pitch is normally made up of wood or artificial material, although any flat, smooth and non-abrasive material may be used. The size of the pitch varies from 38–42m long and 18–25m wide in international matches. Localised match pitches are often smaller than this (from 25m long and 15m wide). The ceiling must be at least 4m high and the goal posts at either end are 3m wide and 2m high.

Futsal is played with a smaller ball (size 3 or 4) with less bounce than a regular football to encourage ball-control and creativity during game play, such as this Fair Trade Futsal Ball from Fair Corp.

A standard match consists of two equal halves of 20 minutes. The length of either half can be extended to allow penalty kicks to be taken or a direct free kick to be taken against a team that has committed more than 5 fouls.

The essence of game play in Futsal is speed, skill, ball-control and fair play. Aggressive tackling is strongly discouraged, and always penalised.

You can find a full set of the FIFA rules for Futsal on the FIFA website.