Have you got the balls to play Fair this Fairtrade Fortnight?

This year Fairtrade Fortnight is all about celebrating the power of everyday choices and telling the other side of the story – the producer’s stories. The Fairtrade Foundation is focusing on three commodities: cocoa, tea and sugar. This is great because Fairtrade is such a great story to tell – it really is a life-changing system and all of us can easily be empowered to bring about change through these simple every day choices.

Sports balls aren’t quite an everyday choice so chances are you won’t hear much about Fairtrade sports balls during Fortnight, or any other time. But Bala Sport Fairtrade sports balls are every bit as much of a Game Changer as the other Fairtrade products.

Bala Sports Fairtrade Fortnight

My ears pricked up in the car recently when I heard mention of Fairtrade Gold on the radio, the speaker said that research by the Fairtrade Foundation put awareness of Fairtrade gold at only about 16%. The presenter admitted they hadn’t heard of it. Recognition of Fairtrade products in the UK as a whole is at an impressive 78%. Unfortunately awareness of Fairtrade sports balls hardly registers with subsequent sales minuscule. We need to change this!

One in three bananas sold in the UK are Fairtrade and 40% of our granulated sugar is Fairtrade certified. Meanwhile Fairtrade sports balls sales account for less than a quarter of one per-cent the UK sports balls market.

The fact that you’re reading this means you do know about Fairtrade balls. It would be great if you could spread the word during Fortnight about what a difference we can make to the men and women in the Bala Fairtrade sports balls factories and hand-stitching centres in Sialkot, Pakistan. Every Fairtrade ball sold gives an extra 10% cash premium which these workers spend on free healthcare, education and clean water plants.

Bala Sport Fairtrade Fortnight Neil Bibby MSP
Fairtrade sports balls are out there this Fairtrade Fortnight though with events like a 5-a-side footy tournament on Sunday 8th March at Five on 5 in Paisley – organised by MSP, Neil Bibby (left)

Not many people in Pakistan play football, because they can’t afford to buy the balls. They often have to walk long distances to work, but with the Fairtrade Premium the factories provide free transport to and from work. Stitching balls by hand is painstaking work and hard on the eyes, the factories provide free eye clinics and treatment.

Bala Sport Fairtrade Sports Balls Workers
Workers at one of our Fairtrade factories enjoying free transport to and from work in a bus funded by the Fairtrade Premium.

There are 6 Fairtrade certified sports balls factories but with demand for Fairtrade balls so low, less than 8% of their output is on Fairtrade terms, meaning they only get the extra Fairtrade Premium for that level of production. They have the capacity to make thousands of balls a week. Think of the increased benefits they could enjoy if we sold more Fairtrade balls in the UK.

Call to Action
So lets try to change the game:
•    Ask your local sports shop to stock Fairtade sports balls from Bala Sport
•    Tell them they’re every bit as good other balls – made to similar specs as FIFA Approved, FIFA Inspected and International Matchball Standard (IMS)
•    Ask your local sports centre to use them
•    Suggest that your local schools play fair
•    Just drop in to conversation – “Hey did you know there are Fairtrade footy balls?”
•    If you already have a Bala Fairtrade ball – Take a picture of it and post it online
•    And finally – if you haven’t already bought one – go and click that “add to cart” button.


Angus Coull
Joint MD, Bala Sport