Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

ILRF and researchers in India have found other companies like
Beltona (a Dutch company) using child laborers to produce their balls.
Other companies that we haven't been able to find much information on
include Star Soccer and Greenland Sports. 

What is so frustrating to me is the lack of transparency in the
sports ball industry.  It's a complicated web of subcontracting.  Even
more alarming is that in 1997, the major players in the sports ball
industry through the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry signed a landmark agreement that committed the industry to eradicating
child labor from sports ball production.  You can view more about the
situation in the 1990s here.

Because child labor has once again been
found in this industry, we want companies to recommit to the eradication
of child labor from your production.  ILRF has following recommendations:

  • Publicly disclose information on your supply
    chain including production facility addresses, stitching centers, and any use
    of home work in India, Pakistan and China;
  • Commit to move beyond a code of conduct and to
    systematically evaluate your purchasing policies, including pricing, delivery schedules,
    and contract time frame with suppliers;

  • tPerform an updated assessment on the current
    impact of ILO-IMAC program in Pakistan
    and determine what steps industry can take to legitimize the “child labor free”
    label, but until such an assessment has been made, cease to use a “child labor
    free” label on your products;

  • Engage with labor allied NGO’s and trade unions
    in all producing countries to evaluate overall labor rights conditions;

  • Incorporate independent monitoring into your
    compliance program in a meaningful way;

  • Engage with International Federation of Football
    Associations (FIFA) and World Federation of Sporting Goods Industries (WFSGI)
    to develop an industry wide plan to combat child labor with specific steps
    towards fair pricing, independent monitoring and supply chain transparency;

  • Prioritize sourcing from factories with
    independent democratic trade unions.



re: Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

So is it just Mitre balls or is it also Nike, Addidas, Vizari, Franklin, & Score? I've never encountered a Mitre soccer ball in my life (course I don't buy at MalWart so, whatever). I want to know about the other brands then...particularly Score since they supply AYSO.... if they use child labor, there'd be a brutal irony and I know an entire AYSO Area that would be willing to fight to get their gear sweat-shop free. But they'd need info first.

re: Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

Here is what Mitre has to say about this, essentially a typically arrogant owning-class non-answer to documentary evidence of their exploitation of those lower than them (my real name is redacted for security reasons). What is shocking is how they characterize HBO as lying and making false claims:

"In response to the broadcast of HBO’s ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ on the evening of 16th September 2008 I am writing to you to allay any concerns that may have been raised with regard to Mitre’s ethical policy associated with child labour.

We take any such reports very seriously and investigate them thoroughly. Our checks on the broadcasted report that claimed that young people in India were involved in the stitching of footballs have revealed that those shown were not in fact in any way involved in the manufacturing of Mitre product.

Mitre is continuing its own investigations in India to understand the source of these false claims.

Mitre is proud of the work it has done with a number of leading ball manufacturers in India and Pakistan for many decades and we have worked in partnership with state, non-governmental and international organisations throughout the years to develop sustainable programmes to ensure the elimination of child labour.

Mitre has been working with the Sports Goods Foundation of India (SGFI) for over ten years in ensuring that there is effective independent monitoring of those involved in ball production. This also includes improving working conditions in the industry and engaging with the SGFI in social programmes covering skill training, education and literacy.

As part of this ongoing work Mitre has significantly supported improvements to the infrastructure of primary and secondary school education and developed with the factories both an internal monitoring procedure and embraced independent monitoring systems. These measures have been widely recognised as extremely effective in not only removing child labour but also in helping any young people who may have been involved.

Mitre has a very clear ethical policy regarding employment and working conditions for all our suppliers. In particular, our employment standards for suppliers state that there is no recruitment or use of child labour. With the steps and measures that we have in place and with our regular reviews of the process we continually check that all our products are being manufactured in compliance with this standard.

We always welcome any information which will help the local programmes improve and refine their procedures and to remind us that we need to continue to work closely and to support them. We are proud to be associated with these programmes, issues of poverty, including child labour, are all too easily sensationalised. The hard work of trying to do something to change people's lives is unfortunately not newsworthy.

If you have any further concerns please do not hesitate to email enquiries [at]"

re: Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

Trina, as you know, we've launched an alternative product line of certified Fair Trade soccer balls for the North American market. The Fair Trade third-party certification ensures the adults who stitched the sports balls are paid a fair living wage and ensured healthy working conditions.

You can learn more on our blog at We'd love to have you stop by for a visit. You can find our products listed in the ILRF "Shopping with a Conscious" guide as well.

- Scott James
Fair Trade Sports
Eco-Certified Fair Trade soccer balls and more!

re: Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

Hey Trina, my friend Rogue sent me the link to this article. Thanks for the info. I reposted it to the Soccer/Football Politics & Culture feed - - at . The article is here -

It's also linked our anarchist soccer team page for Austin, Texas at

A bunch of folks there are starting up a kids game alongside the regular games and it seemed screwed up to be buying balls made with child sweat shop labor...

Cheers, Simon

re: Modern Day Slavery In Soccer Ball Production in India

I know that Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States has a union that represents the players. Has anyone ever tried to get Soccer Players' unions from the US and around the globe interested in taking on this issue?