Fairtrade in Football: a football fan’s campaign to change the beautiful game

I have been watching Stoke City play since I was ten; sold programmes at the Victoria Ground as a teenager, and currently work as a match day steward (even though I live in Pembrokeshire!).

One thing I can not stand in football is unfairness; it ruins games, even seasons; but what most people are not aware of is that it also ruins lives.  As we watch the multi billion pound games, with highly paid players, we do not see the suffering of the hardworking people who make the game possible….the football stitchers.

Thousands of football stitchers hand stitch 4 to 5 footballs a day, in football production capital Pakistan, mainly in a village called Sialkot. The industry was rife with child labour, so in 1998 most of the production was moved to factories in attempt to eradicate this. Unfortunately, this produced problems for mothers, as they had children to care for, so they could no longer work.

Paid less than a living wage, families are trapped in poverty, with reports of stitchers receiving as little as 22p per ball. Children can not go to school; decent accommodation, food and medical care are out of reach. How can I love my neighbour and keep quiet about this? So, I started the campaign.

Jamie Lloyd, co-founder of Fair Corp, took action to change this atrocity and organised the production of Fairtrade footballs. This has been life changing for the stitchers, their families and communities. Not only do the Fairtrade stitchers receive almost double the pay, they have all the benefits that Fairtrade guarantees: safe work conditions, that are now suitable for working women, using the best methods for the environment.

Communities benefit from the Fairtrade premiums too: Education and healthcare are now provided for, with micro loans for those wishing to set up new businesses and much more. This not only gives a fair wage, it gives people hope and a future. I receive pay from Stoke City Football Club, and use it to buy Fairtrade footballs to give away to schools and clubs who support my campaign.

In 2012 Rt. Honourable First Minister, Carwyn Jones, highly commended the campaign. Stoke City’s head of Media, Colin Burgess, has been very supportive. He organised official photographs to be used in schools; and for me to meet the first team players. As a result Brek Shea judged our Design A Logo Competition, with hundreds of Pembrokeshire young people taking part. I met Stoke striker Cameron Jerome and he is keen to support Fair Trade in Football too, I hope other players and clubs will get on board with your help too!

From left; Sharron Hardwick, Midfielder Brek Shea & Head of Media Colin Burgess

Additional footballs have been bought thanks to the Fair Trade Wales’ grant scheme, with promotional materials including the new logo design in the hope to help take the campaign further.

The best thing about football is that lots of people play and love it. If you are involved with schools, clubs or as an individual, you can get involved. You can buy Fairtrade Footballs from Fair Corp www.thefaircorp.com, you can raise awareness about Fairtrade footballs, organise Fairtrade matches or tournements and encourage others to get involved.

The aim of the campaign is to one day see all footballs produced to Fairtrade standards. This is a big aim, but every little step is a step closer. Ball by ball we can begin to change things, improve lives and kick out injustice!

Please join us because together we can make a difference.