It took a while to get it right but we’re very pleased with the specification and quality of our new range of Fairtrade Certified rugby balls. The balls have been tested by two Scottish Premier league rugby clubs and one Scottish 1st Division team. They were happy with the performance of the balls so production was given the green light to start and now they’re here.
The Bala Sport rugby balls are made in India, and we helped the factory become the first Fairtrade certified sports balls factory outside Pakistan. Up until now all of the world’s Fairtrade sports balls were made in Sialkot in Pakistan. Now Jalhandar, across the border in India has it’s first factory making Fairtrade balls – for Bala Sport.
We of course were there to meet the workers as well as the management team and were delighted to see a happy workforce. The temperature was 40 degrees but we were happy to see plenty of air coolers and other health and safety equipment, plenty of fire escapes etc. We really like the spirit of good karma the factory is run on.
The image below shows the first Bala Sport rugby ball to be produced in India. Omparkash (below) is a bit of a star ball stitcher, he can hand stitch up to 15 balls in a day, most stitchers do 10. Rugby balls are a lot quicker to stitch than footballs as they only have 4 panels (with 86 stitches in each) as opposed to up to 32 panels and 720 stitches in a football.
Rugby balls are stitched in the same way footballs are, but the rest of the production process is very different. For a start the balls are made with rubber and not Pu as the footballs are. All the “ingredients” in our rugby ball “recipe” are locally sourced in India, the rubber for the outer shell, the single panel latex bladder and the inks are all made in the factory.
The rubber is made with a mix of natural and synthetic rubber to gain the right consistency and feel.
Natural rubber on the left and synthetic rubber on the right.
Mixing the special recipe for the rubber outer
In football production the branding and colours etc are screen printed directly onto the Pu panels. In our rugby ball production the design is printed onto film sheets and then heat transferred onto the rubber panels for durability. At the same time the dimples are also formed on the rubber at high temperatures.
We really enjoyed meeting the small workforce at the factory in Jalandhar, many of whom have worked there for years. They’re looking forward to making the decision about what their first Fairtrade Premium funded investment should be in, and we’ll report as soon as we hear what it’s going to be.
Rugby is hardly played in India but in Jalandhar they really do know how to make good rugby balls. In the pic below are Ramesh on the left who is a cutting man (cutting out the panels and puncturing the holes for the stitches, and Kishan a supervisor.