National football associations doing 'sweet FA' to end worker exploitation

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date: 5 June 2006

embargo: 00.01hrs Tuesday 6 June 2006

Days before the world's biggest football tournament kicks off in Germany, Labour Behind the Label and the TUC are calling on the football associations behind the 32 competing national teams to insist their sportswear sponsors call time on the production of replica kits in exploitative conditions.

In a joint report, 'Sweet FA: Football associations, workers' rights and the World Cup', the two organisations say that the football associations of the world - who are set to pocket more than £200 million in sponsorship this year - have the power to do what few other organisations do, and persuade sportswear companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro to change their behaviour.

Millions of strips, footballs and other World Cup merchandise will have been sold around the globe in the run-up to the opening game in Munich this Friday, says the report. In the big money world of football, FIFA, the game's governing body made £635 million from the 2002 World Cup - and is expected to make considerably more this time around - and the English FA alone will rake in some £49 million from the 2006 tournament.

'Sweet FA' says that in many of the factories used by the sportswear companies, working weeks of 80 hours or more are not uncommon, hourly rates of pay are so low that workers have to undertake excessive overtime just to make ends meet, and working conditions for most are unsafe. Employees who try to form unions to win better terms and conditions risk dismissal, and in a workforce overwhelming made up of women, maternity leave is rare.

Labour Behind the Label and the TUC want the world's football associations to insert clauses in the contracts they negotiate with the sportswear manufacturers who sponsor their national teams that would:

  • require the companies that win the licences to produce national and replica kits to do so in factories that have decent working conditions,
  • put in place measures that ensure the implementation and independent verification of these 'fair play' standards, and
  • penalise companies breaching these agreements.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'With so much money being made from the beautiful game, the sportswear giants must be made to play fair with the workers who deliver their sky-high profits.

'An industry worth billions should be able to ensure basic rights and a decent living wage for all its workers. Whilst workers sew the replica kits, stitch the World Cup footballs and glue the boots late into the night for poverty wages, millions will be flowing into the coffers of the companies sponsoring the sides in this year's World Cup.

'Football associations could actually make the difference and kick exploitation into touch. They could insist that the workplace rights we all take for granted are not just a distant dream for millions of workers in the developing world.'

Martin Hearson, Campaign Co-ordinator of Labour Behind the Label said: 'Hundreds of millions of pounds are sloshing around football sponsorship

deals this year, while workers supplying the sportswear brands struggle

to make ends meet and defend their basic rights. It makes a mockery of

the ideals of fair play. It's such a shame more football associations

haven't woken up to their potential to do something for workers by using

their leverage over companies eager for sponsorship deals.'

'Sweet FA: Football associations, workers' rights and the World Cup' recognises that some of the sportswear companies notably Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro, have made an attempt to stop some of the worst kind of abuses in the factories from which they source their goods.

But, says the report, the pressures that the sportswear companies impose on the factory owners are also making matters worse. By placing smaller orders more frequently, pushing for shorter delivery times, and threatening to take their business elsewhere if their demands are not met, the factories are forced to lower wages and increase the working hours just to hold on to their lucrative sportswear contracts.

And whilst sportswear companies may trumpet their codes of conduct and talk up their commitment to improve labour standards, the Labour Behind the Label/TUC report says that up to half the factories currently used by Nike - currently sponsors of the Mexican, Portuguese, Dutch and Brazilian national teams - expect a working week in excess of 60 hours a week.

Meanwhile, another major beneficiary from this summer's tournament, Adidas - backers of the Argentinian, German, French and Spanish national squads - could, with the £86 million it has paid to sponsor England captain David Beckham, guarantee a living wage to 100,000 of its workers in Indonesia.


- 'Sweet FA: Football associations, workers' rights and the World Cup' has found evidence of Honduran workers producing for Adidas and Nike earning just £85 per month, a quarter of what they need to meet their basic needs; Indonesian sportswear workers earning £51 per month, less than half what they need to live decently; and workers in El Salvador producing for Adidas and Nike who lost their jobs when they tried to form a union.

- A copy of 'Sweet FA: Football associations, workers' rights and the World Cup' is available at


Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: [email protected]

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