A community benefit society is seeking to raise £150,000 to promote Fairtrade sports balls made in Pakistan. Bala Sport, based in Glasgow, was established last year with the aid of a near £20,000 grant from Glasgow City Council’s co-operative development fund.
It launched its share offer last month, with support from Community Shares Scotland and Supporters Direct Scotland. At a launch event at Scotland’s national stadium, Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scottish professional freestyle footballer David Mennie showed off the Bala football range and passed on his freestyle skills to pupils from nearby Mount Florida Primary School. Bala Sport also launched its new Fairtrade rugby balls at the event.
The bencom followed this up with a series of events during Faritrade Fortnight, including a primary schools Fairtrade football tournament in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, and a 5-a-side competition in Paisley organised by Neil Bibby MSP.
Fairtrade balls currently account for less than 1% of the UK sports ball market, in contrast to the strong sales of other Fairtrade products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and bananas. Bala Sport aims to sell at least 20,000 footballs, rugby balls and futsals (for indoor football) this year. It plans to add netballs and volleyballs to the range in 2016.
Bala balls are made to the same specifications as FIFA Approved, FIFA Inspected and International Matchball Standard balls. There are three football types in the range: a Pro match ball and a Team training ball, both of which are hand stitched, and a Play leisure ball, which is machine stitched. They are available in adult and children’s sizes. The rugby balls are again available in Pro, Team and Play specifications. They are manufactured in Sialkot, Pakistan.
Joint managing directors Angus Coull and Annie Howie visited some of the factories in August 2014, where they gathered video footage of the production process. Annie Howie says: “Most people think it’s only farmed products that are Fairtrade, but labour in factories and hand-stitching centres can be certified too.
“Fairtrade guarantees fair rates of pay and safe working conditions as well as an extra 10% cash premium which goes towards projects such as free healthcare, education, and water purification.”
Scottish government international development minister Humza Yousaf said: “Small changes in our spending habits can lead to huge changes in the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.
“Bala Sport’s Fairtrade footballs are a great quality product that are not only good for your next kick about but ensure those who make them earn a fair wage and work in suitable conditions. I’d encourage as many people as possible to buy Fairtrade products whenever possible.”
Martin Meteyard, chair of Bala Sport, added: “This is a great opportunity for individuals and organisations to help change the world. Fairtrade really does make a difference. You can invest as little as £50, up to a maximum of £25,000, to become a member, and we are hoping that HMRC will allow you to set 50% of the cost of your shares against tax under the government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.”
The Bala branding has been developed by Glasgow design agency Reflex Blue. The word Bala is Gaelic for ball, and the final ‘A’ is a modern twist on a Gaelic symbol meaning human development – Bala’s answer to the Nike swoosh. Bala also means strength in Punjabi – the language spoken by the ball stitchers.