Spotlight on Bala Sport

New IDEAS member Bala Sport is a Glasgow based co-operative set up with the aim of ensuring a fair deal for sports ball workers in developing countries.

The community benefit society has 113 member investors (including two Scottish secondary schools) and is the only UK based sports ball producer certified by the Fairtrade Foundation, and one of only a handful of Fairtrade sports ball producers in the world. 

Around 70% of the world’s stitched sports balls are made in a city called Sialkot, in the Punjab area of Pakistan. This is where Bala balls are made, in one of only seven factories in the world certified to make Fairtrade balls.

Making balls to Fairtrade standards means that workers receive fair rates of pay, work in safe conditions, with an emphasis on equality, and access to union representation. The other major benefit from the system is the Fairtrade Premium. This is an extra 10% cash payment from the sale of every Bala Sport ball which workers democratically decide through a “joint body” what social development projects to invest it in.

Typically these include free eye tests and subsidised glasses, free diabetes checks, free safe transport to and from work, subsidised household goods and food, free schoolbooks and backpacks for workers’ children and free safe drinking water. The water filtration plants (part funded by the Fairtrade Premium) are built outside the factory gates so that anyone can fill up a container of clean, safe drinking water.

Bala Sport works with some of sport’s national governing bodies and players and teams to develop the right specification of balls for their customers, mainly schools and clubs. Futsal is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and Bala Sport balls are the official ball of the Scottish Futsal League.

The sports ball co-operative was very proud to be official match ball provider of the 2016 Homeless World Cup (in partnership with fellow co-op, Scotmid) and is also proud to support United Glasgow FC, the refugee team.

Not many people know about how sports balls are made. The story is a fascinating one for young minds and can tie in with several subjects and curriculum areas.

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Bala Sport balls are high quality items, the Team, Astro and Pro footballs are hand stitched for durability and made and tested to the same standards as FIFA certified balls. FIFA however don’t allow any other certification mark on a ball that carries theirs. All the panels are individually screen printed. Even the lower cost Bala Sport balls that are machine stitched are still done by an individual operating a Singer style sewing machine.

Schools are currently one of Bala Sport’s biggest customer groups and the company also hopes that more schools will buy the balls and promote the fact that they’re playing with “balls with a heart”.

Bala Sport is currently developing a suite of educational resources for primary school teachers and youth leaders, to promote awareness of Fairtrade in sports ball production. These resources include a range of interactive and participative learning activities designed to inspire reflection, evoke critical discussion and guide fundraising activities.

A digital storybook and animation which are being created in collaboration with City of Glasgow College will also form part of the educational pack.  If anyone would like to trial these resources and input into them please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .