Fair Trade in Football?

A Fair Deal Football

In 1879 the football club Darwen in Lancashire shocked polite Victorian society by employing and paying Fergie Suter and James Love, two Scottish footballers.

In private players had been paid in kind for a while – some in cash, others in food and drink.

By 1885 professional footbal was legal and six years later a  £4-a-week wage limit was nervously introduced as the Authorities were afraid that the Corinthian ideal of the gentleman footballer was in danger of disappearing.

By 1922 the maximum wage had grown to £8 a week (£6 in the summer), and clubs also gave a loyalty bonus of £650 after five years.

In 2009 John Terry of Chelsea was earning £130,000 a week. It’s reasonable to suspect that he’s put in for a wage rise since.

By way of contrast, in 1908 Walter Tull was apprenticed as a printer and playing for his local  team in Clapton. He was an outstanding talent and was quickly discovered by a Tottenham scout. Spurs paid Walter the maximum signing on fee permitted at the time – £10 – and his wages were £4 a week. Walter was only the second man of mixed race (after Arthur Wharton) to play professional football in Britain.

Walter Tull at Spurs

He played at the highest level for Tottenham and then Northampton Town (a club much more prestigious then than now). His inspiring story has been told by me in another post. He gave up football and a chance to sign for Rangers in 1914 to join the Army, going to Italy and then France. He didn’t return.

Football has become about big money and small characters. Even the ball itself has become a metaphor for big business and exploitation.

In 1995 first reports started to surface about the structural abuse of child labour and exploitation of adults in Sialkot, Pakistan. Children and women were working for long hours in poor conditions for a pittance. Footballs were made in Pakistan and to a lesser extent, India for many years by people with no cultural link with the game. They were paid laughable sums and were prevented from having employment protection in law.

Footballs to this day are still hand-stitched, assembled one-by-one in primitive conditions where 5 to 6 balls a day is the average worker’s output.

Major brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Mitre (UK) have recently discovered a conscience in these matters because links with child labour are not a great football association in the hothouse supersales arena of world soccer.  

Research done by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute (NLI) captured in the paper –  ‘Child Labour in the Sports Goods Industry – Jalandhar, A Case Study’ 1998 (known as the ‘NLI report’) concluded that around 10,000 children were engaged in stitching footballs in the district of Jalandhar.

A Child Worker in Pakistan

Stitching footballs is a home-based industry in which the manufacturing-exporting companies produce the panels of the balls in their factories and hire contractors who act as middlemen between them and the home-based workers who stitch the balls. Almost half of the stitchers are living below the poverty line and four out of ten households are headed by illiterate adults. About 90% of the households belong to the so-called ‘untouchables’, or Dalits as they prefer to call themselves. Their human rights are violated in many spheres of life, especially when they dare to assert and organise themselves. Dalits and their children are the main victims of bonded labour and child labour.

The NLI report estimates the average daily earning of an adult male in the sports goods industry to be around Rs.20 (less than half a US dollar) which is about one third of the present minimum wage of Rs.63 a day. Almost half of the working children have health problems, the most common of which are joint pains and backache.

Since 2006, meanwhile, a British company, led by young co-director James Lloyd in Brighton has designed a range of balls that do not depend on exploitation and child labour to make a profit.

Fair Deal Trading is based on rigorously monitored Fair Trade principles, paying fair wages for sensible hours of work and providing a hinterland of benefits and health cover for workers employed in Pakistan.

Imran Khan is one such worker. He has been working in the Ethletic factory, Vision, since 2005, manufacturing sports ball bladders. He currently earns Rs. 7000 – much more than the minimum wage.

Because of his employment, most of the benefits of the Vision Fairtrade projects are available for him and members of his family. He does a significant amount of his shopping in the Fair Price shop, saving about 3% on the grocery bill – significant savings for a family of ten (parents, six sisters, two sons) on a silly budget.

He can use the Vision pick-up and drop bus purchased with Fairtrade Premium money – saving up to 1000 Rs/month: His daughter has benefited from the Fair Trade health care scheme in place.

The footballs produced are of premium quality, unlike the factory produced, machine stitched Adidas balls used in the last World Cup to universal derision, not least from players. The sponsorship pumped into the competition secured their place on the pitch. Players watched in bemusement as these balls ballooned their way around the pitch, completely out of control.

In the meantime, Ethletic balls, which have fair wages and a future for the indigenous economy sewn into them, can’t even break into the squad of approved balls used in the Premier League, much less the European Championship or World Cup.

So while most Premiership players earn above £50,000 a week, workers in Pakistan are being paid 1/50,000 of this in order to protect the positions of the major football sponsors. Yet, the high street is going bananas for Fair Trade. The Industry is worth £1.4 billion per annum. It just hasn’t reached Football yet.

If you read this and feel ashamed, lobby your local club. Better still, get them to buy their footballs from Fair Deal Trading.  http://www.fairdealtrading.com/

That way, given a level playing field and a fair wind, everyone wins.

A fair day's pay for a fair day's work?

Walter Tull. Why have you never heard of him?

Walter Tull - the first black English Army Officer

The 25th March marks a lonely anniversary. There should be parades, bunting, crowds.  But there will not be a single Reveille. On that day ninety-three years ago an authentic hero died in the Second Battle of the Somme. A Boys Own hero, a sporting legend who had played for Spurs, a leader of men who had stood side by side with them as they went over the top in some of the most dangerous fighting in modern warfare. A man who had been sent into care after the early death of his parents, separated from his brother and left to survive alone. A man of principle, impeccable morals, and the highest standards. An example, an icon, a man you probably haven’t heard of.

This man was Walter Tull.

Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888. By 1900, both his Barbadian father and his English mother were dead. Walter and his elder brother Edward were placed in a children’s’ home in Bethnal Green.

Spotted while playing for the children’s’ home team, he was invited to join Clapton, a top amateur team, in 1908. Helping them to victory in the FA Amateur Cup, the London Senior Cup and the London County Amateur Cup that same season, he was soon attracting the attention of other clubs. It was Tottenham Hotspur who moved in for him, trialling him in their ‘A’ and reserve teams throughout the season. Still an amateur, Walter Tull was invited to tour Argentina and Uruguay with Spurs, signing as a professional on his return. After only seven first team games, he was dropped. This may have been a consequence of the racial abuse he received playing at Bristol City. Rather than stand by Tull, the Spurs management consigned their young star to the reserves.

In 1911, Herbert Chapman signed him for Southern League Northampton Town where he stayed until, like many of his contemporaries, he joined the army in September 1914. Serving in the famous ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, he reached the rank of Sergeant. Still able to play football when on leave, he guested for Fulham in 1915.

Recommended for a commission, Walter Tull became an officer cadet in 1917. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Battalion in the Middlesex Regiment, he was mentioned in dispatches early the following year.

The strange thing is this. There was a ban of black men becoming officers in the British Army. It was somehow ungentlemanly to have a man of colour leading white men into battle. Yet that is what Tull did, heroically.

He was destined for further greatness. In 1917, Tull signed for Glasgow Rangers. Unfortunately, Walter Tull didn’t live to lead the Ibrox attack in the same way that he had led his soldiers. He was killed in action during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 whilst serving with the 23rd Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment.

Walter, like many professional players, had joined the Football Battalion in 1914. The Army recognised Tull’s stature as a leader and he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

In July 1916, Tull took part in the major Somme offensive. Tull survived this experience but in December 1916 he developed trench fever and was sent home to England to recover. Tull had impressed his senior officers who recommended that he should be considered for further promotion. When he recovered from his illness, instead of being sent back to France, he went to the officer training school at Gailes in Scotland. Despite military regulations forbidding “any negro or person of colour” being an officer, Tull received his commission in May, 1917.

Tull became the first Black combat officer in the British Army.  Phil Vasili celebrates this in his superb story and scholarly work, ‘Walter Tull. Officer, Footballer – All The Guns In France Couldn’t Wake Me’  (Raw Press ISBN-10: 0956395406  ISBN-13: 978-0956395405)  He relates, “According to The Manual of Military Law, Black soldiers of any rank were not desirable. During the First World War, military chiefs of staff, with government approval, argued that White soldiers would not accept orders issued by men of colour and on no account should Black soldiers serve on the front line.”

Lieutenant Walter Tull was sent to the Italian front. This was epoch-making in its own right because Tull was the first ever black officer in the British Army. He led his men at the Battle of Piave and was mentioned in dispatches for his “gallantry and coolness” under fire.

Tull stayed in Italy until 1918 when he was transferred to France to take part in the attempt to break through the German lines on the Western Front. On 25th March, 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Tull was ordered to lead his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil. On penetrating No Mans Land Tull was hit by a German bullet. Tull was loved by his men and several of them ran under a hail of machine gun bullets to try and bring him back.  These efforts were in vain as Tull had died soon after being hit.

One of the soldiers who tried to rescue him later told his commanding officer that Tull was “killed instantaneously with a bullet through his head.” Tull’s body was never recovered.

So on the 25th March the distant guns of the Western Front will lay silent. The campaign to award Walter Tull a posthumous Military Cross after an Early Day Motion in June 2008 failed will also fall silent. The fluttering white papers of bureaucracy in Whitehall will fall like feathers over the memories of gallantry against impossible odds. The battle for Walter Tull began the day he was born in Folkestone in 1888, an Englishman of valour and faith. He died a hero twenty-nine years later.

The German Army shot him. His body was never found. And yet we have still managed to bury him.

Walter Tull (left), a true English hero

A letter to the six year old me

'One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes.''

There are many things it would have been useful to know back then..

I was a cute kid, light brown hair with bright, wide open eyes, curious about everything, trusting about a lot more. I was a first born so for the first four years of my life I was Le Petit Prince, the centre of attention and the focus of everything – except that for the first five years I didn’t speak. I don’t know why. I was bright, inquisitive, played inside and outside the home with brave abandon. I just didn’t communicate in the dimension we call language.

Maybe I was scared, fearful of something deep inside. Afraid of being wrong, of mistakes that I wasn’t fully conscious of, but knew I could make if I wasn’t careful. I think I was told I was wrong a lot, but that could be a retrospectively imposed memory because I was told off a lot later. I think I was happy, but I can’t be sure which probably says it all.

For more than fifty years I have stored my only memory of this period in my life. I have a recollection – in fact, more than that, a dramatic video clip in my head of me on a tricycle pedalling furiously around the block where we lived in Southend, trying to get home before the storm broke. The black clouds were gathering like bullfrogs in the sky above and that heavy feeling in the air that gathers before a thunderstorm was pressing down on me. I could hear a distant rumble, like a chest of drawers being pulled forcibly across next door’s landing. The first spots of rain started to fall out of the sky and my urge to get home or at least out of the storm led me to propel the pedals faster. I was no more than a street away yet I felt as if I had accidentally drifted into a foreign country. I started crying, still pedalling furiously, in an attempt to beat the storm, to keep ahead of it, to work harder in order to beat it. But however hard I turned the wheels of my tricycle, I could not overtake the storm. The clouds opened, the rain fell, the thunder tumbled out of the sky and the lightning whipped across my retinas in a way I hadn’t experienced before. It was my first storm. I didn’t know that it wasn’t the end of the world. It would have been good to have been told that.

Earlier today I learned some lines by rote to use them in a minor drama. I learned them assiduously in order to be able to perform a two-handed piece with a friend who had also learned his lines. The cues were important. I assembled the script in my head. I could recite it word for word perfectly. In rehearsal I could speak and act like Gielgud – with no hesitation. When it came to it in front of an audience, my mind went blank in the middle of the piece – almost as if a piece of my brain had decided to bolt for the door.  Afterwards, I realised that I had unconsciously gone back to when I was six at Bournemouth Park Junior School in Southend where I was performing T.S. Eliot’s Macavity the Mystery Cat in its entirety on stage. I lost my way half way through and was castigated in a most unpleasant way for it by my class teacher. Since then, I have had a block about performing learned lines on stage. I have excused this by saying that I am a free spirit, that lines represent restraints, that I am an improviser, a spontaneous speaker, a kind of frontiersman of the performing world. That’s why I have worked in radio. No script. That’s why I have been a teacher. No script. That’s why I love to speak unrehearsed on stage to anyone who will listen. No script. My life as a whole has been lived without a script. All because a misguided Mrs Squeers gave me a hard time when I was six years old.

No script, ergo no safety net, no balance wheels, no seat belt, no contingency plan, no pension, does make for a more interesting life. But having cues simply means you can ignore them if you want to. Maybe I went off the rails because the rails resembled lines. ‘You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

Now that the six year old me and I have got acquainted, here are some things that I could share with him.

Just to make him feel a little better.

You are loved, little guy. There is no-one else in the world like you. You will give a whole lot of pleasure to a lot of people before you’re done. You will make mistakes but these won’t matter that much, not compared with the good you’ll do. All those mistaken ideas about not being worth very much are wrong. They were put into you by people who were damaged themselves. In fact, you’re priceless. Priceless in a way that might lead to people dying for you, perhaps even God himself. The love that you missed out on as a kid will be made up to you many times over, because you will hand it out plentifully to others. You will make an integral and unique difference to other people’s lives. You will brighten up many people’s days, every day. You will feel the black heart of other’s prejudices and blame yourself before understanding that it is their heart, not yours, that is hurt. You will have a place that you can call home in your own heart. You will cry, you will despair, but you will never be worthless. You will think you’ve failed, but that will just be another step towards success. You may feel lost, but that will just be exploration. You may feel like you have gone down dead ends but these will be just be paths less trodden. You will experience fear, but it will seem much better when you call it excitement instead. You will feel driven, but you will realise that no-one can drive like you, and it was you driving all along. Your ambition will feel out of reach until you understand that it is your ambition and you can do what you like with it. You will feel like a failure, but you will also feel like another hug, and have that instead. You will find out that the difference between depression and happiness is just a raising of the eyes from the ground into the eyes of another and smiling. Anything you decide to do will be your decision, even though you may feel guided by someone one else. There is no-one to blame. But the credit belongs to you as well. All of it. However hard you try, you will never stop being a human being of infinite worth.

You are now and will always be loved, little Prince.

England’s Dreaming

We'll meet again, don't know how, don't know when..

“I think the best place to work in football is England”

Jose Mourinho

“My mortal foe can no ways wish me a greater harm than England’s hate; neither should death be less welcome unto me than such a mishap betide me”

Elizabeth I

“There’ll always be an England, even if it’s in Hollywood”

Bob Hope

“In England we have come to rely upon a comfortable time-lag of 50 years or a century intervening between the perception that something ought to be done and a serious attempt to do it”

H.G. Wells

‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. With Nelson’s words ringing in my ear, I terminated a training course I was running prior to kick-off at 3pm Sunday 27th June.

I was working in London. I dismissed the delegates early so that they could repair to the hotel bar in order to watch the game. The feeling of anticipation mixed with a layer of fear (Germany..penalties..average age of their team 4 years younger than ours) was palpable.

When Lampard’s goal was disallowed there was a sense of surreal Truffautesque comedy surrounding it – as if we were all shortly going to appear on an edition of Candid Camera or You’ve been Framed – or that Rio Ferdinand was going to say that he’d arranged the whole thing as a Merk (sick joke) on his team mates – and the Nation.

I was feeling unwell anyway so the drive home from London was a bit of a blur, interspersed by Rob Green on Radio Five Live fielding grief-stricken calls from fans who kept repeating the mantra – ‘Fabio, six million a year’ and ‘what are we going to do now?’

People who support Man U or Arsenal or Chelsea (even Liverpool) don’t understand what it is like for a Southend United Supporter (newly relegated to Division Two) to be let down by England as well. The Manchesters and the Chelseas will sail on next season to cup and league glory.

Lower division urchin supporters will have to make do with scraps of good news along the lines of ‘Youth Team Coach has accepted a new Contract’ and ‘Two senior players who were paid more than is allowed in Division Two have been released on free transfers’. It’s a different world.

For us goal line technology consists of a mobile phone strapped to a goalpost in case the goalkeeper is called away to his second job as an undertaker.

The term team strip has a different meaning as well. In Southend United’s case it means key members of the team being stripped by other clubs as we move into the lower subterranean reaches of the Football League where fans arrive with their kit bags because there’s always the outside chance of being asked to play if the Centre Forward doesn’t turn up because he’s had a better offer from Colchester United.

Our longsuffering Manager Steve Tilson (subsequently moved upstairs to be replaced by the old school die-hard Scot Paul Sturrock) is particularly philosophical considering that even after retiring from the game ten years ago he knows he could still play better than half his team. It is especially appropriate that a major supermarket is funding the replacement ground to Roots Hall as most of our team are now officially on the shelf – available on a Buy One Get One Free offer (BOGOF).

The one redeeming fact about all this is that after watching England play like a Cromer Women’s Institute Sunday outing, Southend United will look quite good next season.

Disappointment? It’s all relative..

Are we God’s weakness?

God's weak link?

It’s liberating not to be an expert. Great to admit that there’s a million things that I simply don’t know. All I’m sure about is that I’m still curious.

For example, I don’t know for sure if the Earth is warming up or that the Poles are thawing at a faster rate than the oceans can absorb the water. I don’t know what the weather will do next week. I’m in the dark about the amount of electricity we need to save before the energy stocks dim. I’m swinging either way over the question of a hung Parliament. I’m poleaxed over the polls and dithering over the political debates raging daily.

I’m not sure whether we should be in Europe or whether Europe should be in us. I’m fairly easy about Quantitative Easing.  I could be convinced that the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is really a canny old man. I’m unsure over whether if you laid all the economists end to end they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. Neither would I. I’m curious. Open to persuasion. The more I know, the more I don’t know.

I sense that God exists, yet I can’t prove it. I know that a lot of people don’t believe in him, yet he believes in them. If he’s omnipotent and omniscient then he is powerful enough to know everything and yet on the other hand if God is Love then he must hurt a lot when people he loves don’t reciprocate.

He could command them to love him – but lovers don’t command anyone to love them. It happens naturally. So that makes him vulnerable. He’s standing at the door and knocking and if we hear him and open the door then he comes in. That’s not a door-crashing God, it’s a meek, exposed Dad who loves his child knocking at the bedroom door hoping that the teenager will let him in so they can talk.

So what I thought I knew about God isn’t true. He doesn’t make us do anything.  He asks, politely.

He woos us gently and he died in the process of proving his love. It doesn’t seem fair – and probably isn’t. I guess I don’t know the truth. I can only feel. That’s human and yet strangely God-like.

Luke 15:20 (New International Version)

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Hebrews 5:2 (New International Version)

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Maybe we are his weakness.

Selfless – a psychological tripwire by Roy Stannard

Introspection 2

Colm was a generous man. He had been brought up to believe that the more he gave, the more he would be rewarded later in life or in the life after. As a child he had shared his toys with his friends at school, unselfishly. He had lent his things to people he hardly knew and often they didn’t come back. He didn’t mind. It was good to be generous and he was always popular with the children around him who loved to come and play with his things.

When Colm had money given to him by his parents, he made a point of sharing it with his friends too. It seemed right to share his good fortune. The money wasn’t his, it had been given to him so he could help make the world a happier place. Soon the young boy was surrounded by fair weather friends who loved to be in his company for as long as he had wealth to share.

In fact, they became accustomed to going to Colm’s house where they shared his money, his games, his books and anything else they could lay their hands on.  He felt obliged to find new ways of supporting this generosity and went out to work early in the morning, every morning, delivering newspapers in order to continue to have the money that people loved to share.

His parents wondered about the number of friends their son had and worreid about the size of the presents he asked them for when his birthday arrived, and after that, Christmas. But they agreed to give him what he asked for because they wanted their son to be happy.

For a while he was happy. He was the centre of attention and always seemed to have lots of people around him telling him a wonderful person he was. His friends clapped him on the back and agreed that he was a good fellow whilst keeping one hand free to take the gifts that he insisted on pressing on them.

In his teenage years, Colm continued to fund friendship with generosity. He took up smoking in order to be able to share cigarettes. He took up drinking in order to be the first to the bar. He took up driving at seventeen in order to be able to give people lifts. He shared his first girlfriend with his best friend, whoever that was. At eighteen, he shared his identity so that his friends could buy alcohol at the local supermarket. At College he made his essay answers available for those in his group who had forgotten to meet deadlines. He lent all his money to people who were good at crying.

When Colm got his first job he quickly became the man people went to in order to get new supplies of stationery, to borrow a mug from, to sign in for if they were late back from lunch. He was the first person the Boss went to if he wanted someone to work late, to come in at weekends, to meet the impossible deadline. He had an inexhaustible supply of jokes and sent more office emails than any one else.

When Colm met his wife he promised her the biggest and best honeymoon and a couple of friends came along too. Later, when they had kids, he came home every evening from work with a present for them. Soon they expected this to happen and pursed their lips if he came home empty-handed.  His wife loved wearing his presents and loved finding catalogues to enable him to indulge his generosity still further. His parties were the talk of the town and people said that you could make a whole new circle of friends at each one. Colm sometimes wondered who these strangers were in his house, but they smiled at him and clapped him on the back, looking for all the world as if they loved him.

The newspapers covered his spectacular parties and the gossip columns buzzed with what happened amongst the people who attended. Strangely, Colm did not appear in the pictures and his name was rarely mentioned.  In the rare photograph that included him, he looked like a waiter, handing someone a drink, always smiling, never being smiled upon.

After paying for the graduation celebration, the wedding and the motor transportation of his children Colm was asked for a divorce by his wife. He agreed and there was a generous settlement.

Soon after, he suffered a serious heart attack and was taken to hospital. There was no-one to go with him. He was asked by the Doctor on duty who he was. He didn’t know how to answer this question because an identity in life is a contract between people with something to share. He had given himself away. Selflessly. To exist in other’s minds he had to first exist in his own.

Out there, there is someone who loves you unconditionally. Have you spent enough time together today?