There are two major shifts occurring in the global industry in football manufacture. The first is a shift in the geographic distribution of where balls are made and sold. The second is in the development of new technologies in ball manufacture.
According to Dr Khalid Nadvi, an authority on trends in the global football industry, Pakistan has seen its share of the market in inflatable ball manufacture fall sharply (from 23.2% in 2004 and 23.0% in 2006 to 13.2% in 2009) while China has experienced consistent growth (28.9% in 2004, 35.4% in 2006 and 50.5% in 2009). Thailand, the world’s third largest producer, has also experienced a notable decline, from 9.8% of global exports in 2004 to 6.6% in 2009.
There have also been some shifts in the location of consumers. The EU is the largest market, with 27.8% of total global inflatable ball imports in 2009, while the USA accounted for 19.8% of total global imports. While the EU’s import share has remained relatively consistent, that of the USA has declined. On the other hand, newly emerging markets, particularly in Latin America but also in East and South East Asia have grown, although they command a much smaller share of the global imports of football. As Nadvi suggests “the increasing importance of new end markets reflects the growing global popularity of the sport, and the expansion of sports goods retailing and the major sports goods brands into newly emerging markets”.
The second major shift is regarding technology. As Nadvi highlights, productivity levels also differ sharply between China and Pakistan. Factory based machine stitchers in China produce between 36 to 40 footballs per day, however they are usually working a 10-hour shift for six days a week. In Pakistan, on the other hand, full-time stitchers stitch between four to five balls a day, working six days a week for an 8-hour shift per day. Wage levels in football factories in these two countries are also very different. Whereas average earnings from football stitching rarely exceed USD $3 per day in Sialkot, Pakistan, wages per day in factories in Guangdong were around USD $ 10 to USD $ 12 and around USD $7 in the Jiangsu region.
Question marks over the quality of machine stitched balls remain and they typically sell for a lower price than hand stitched alternatives.
Why are these shifts important?
What these shifts show are that both labour standards and technological improvements influencing productivity levels matter. As Nadvi et al explain “the threat of child labour in South Asia and comparatively better working conditions in China have led some buyers to focus on the latter as their leading suppliers”.
China’s technological innovation in the field has also attracted consumers. However, labour standard challenges, while not as a serious as those faced in Pakistan, have also been relevant to the China’s football manufacturing, in particular regarding working conditions, overtime and the limits to collective bargaining rights. Nadvi adds, “there have also been questions on the use of prison labour in Chinese football production, while this is not illegal in China; US law restricts the import of goods manufactured by prison labour”. Nevertheless, China has currently consolidated its position as the world’s largest football manufacturer, taking market share from Pakistan the world’s second biggest producer.
This is our overview of the global football market and in our next blog we’ll explore how Alive & Kicking and Africa might be able to muscle in.
This article was largely based on research by Dr Khalid Nadvi in the two papers :
Nadvi, K. (2011). Labour standard and technological upgrading: competitive challenges in the global football industry. International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development .
Nadvi, K., Lund-Thomsen, P., Xue, H., & Khara, N. (2011). Playing against China: global value chains and labour standards in the international sports goods industry. Global Networks , 334 -354.