The FoulBall campaign
They are the toys of children, manufactured by the exploitation
Much of the world's supply of sporting equipment is made with
child labor. In Pakistan, the world's leading exporter of soccer
balls (supplying more than 60 per cent of the U.S. market), for
example, more than 7,000 children under the age of 14 toil at
stitching soccer balls. The children receive about 60 cents per
ball they stitch, and even older children can only stitch three
or four balls a day. With the support of then-U.S. Secretary of
Labor Robert Reich and other prominent politicians, a coalition
of international trade union federations and non-governmental
labor rights organizations launched the FoulBall Campaign in June
1996 to ensure that "children would no longer kick around
the balls made by impoverished children half a world away,"
in the words of campaign director Dan McCurry. The campaign seeks
to eliminate the use of child labor in the manufacture of soccer
balls. The FoulBall Campaign's first target was the Federation
of International Foot ball Associations (FIFA), the international
soccer coordinating body which places its stamp on high-quality
soccer balls, including those used in professional soccer leagues.
The campaign asked FIFA not to permit its stamp to be used on
balls made with child labor.
Assisted in the United States by support from Reich, and powered
in Europe by controversy following revelation of the soccer ball-child
labor connection during the European soccer championship in June,
the FoulBall Campaign immediately garnered considerable publicity.
Thousands of young soccer players in the United States and Europe
wrote to FIFA and other soccer governing bodies, asking that child
labor be eliminated from soccer ball manufacturing. Following
negotiations with the International Textile, Garment and Leather
Workers Federations and other international union federations,
FIFA announced in August that it would demand all of its licensees
adhere to an extensive labor code as a condition of using the
FIFA label. The labor code prohibits the use of child labor and
other exploitative labor practices. Monitoring of adherence to
the code is to be done by international trade union organizations.
Now, "that FIFA symbol [is] to stand for 'no child labor,"'
In the United States, the FoulBall Campaign continued to pressure
youth soccer federations to endorse an anti-child labor stance.
In early January 1997, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and the
American Youth Soccer Organization endorsed the FIFA labor code.
With repressive labor practices in their shoe-making factories
in Asia under intense scrutiny, Reebok and Nike quickly sought
to ensure that child labor was not used in soccer balls manufactured
under their labels. In November 1996, Reebok announced its soccer
balls would begin bearing a "Guaranteed: Manufactured ' without
child labor" label by spring 1997. That same month, Nike
and a Pakistani firm opened a soccer-ball stitching plant in Pakistan
that Nike said would not subcontract its work and would not use
The FoulBall Campaign is now planning to expand its focus
to baseballs, tennis balls, volleyballs and other sports balls,
to ensure child labor is not used in their manufacture, according
to McCurry. The organizations supporting the campaign are also
preparing to launch a Fair Ball Foundation to support the education
and rehabilitation of children freed from laboring at ball making.
And, building on the success of the FoulBall Campaign, the
trade unions and non-governmental groups who supported it are
now gearing up for a Freedom Rings Campaign to end the use of
child labor in Olympic sports.