A year-long investigation carried out by an Australian newspaper has found that two of the biggest iconic football brands in the country, Sherrin and Canterbury, are indulging in illegal child labor practices in India to stitch their sports balls.
The poorest of Indian children are made to stitch sports balls for these companies and are paid very little in return, according a 12-month investigation by the Herald.
The investigation discovered that regardless of noteworthy reforms to India's huge but poorly regulated sports ball industry, children are still working, sometimes forcibly, in the painstaking and painful hand-stitching of footballs, netballs and soccer balls.
The children who stitch Sherrin and Canterbury balls are employed unofficially, through subcontractors, who pay them for each ball stitched, the paper said.
Stitching together the four pre-cut panels of a Sherrin Auskick football can take more than an hour, and to someone who is stitching these balls, it is worth 7 rupees, it added.
Soccer balls or netballs, with more panels, pay up to 28 rupees a piece for three or four hours work, while the cheapest, smallest, footballs pay as little as 4 rupees, it said.
Most of these poor child-stitchers earn about between 50 and 60 rupees, according to the investigation.
The sourcing manager for Canterbury Australia and New Zealand, Jason Law, said he was horrified and extremely disappointed by the evidence provided to him regarding child labour.
"We will definitely be delving into it ourselves a lot deeper and making sure we stamp out whatever is going on up there," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Law, as saying.
It has been observed that most of these stitchers often end up with chronic back injuries from the unnatural sitting position, and they regularly pierce their fingers with the sharp, heavy needles, or slice their hands on the wax-coated string, the paper said.
India is the largest exporter of sports balls to Australia, and nearly 10 million Indian-made balls were shipped into the country last year, 45 per cent of all sports ball imports, it added.