Nike sacks Pakistani football supplier

Some footballs used in the English Premier League may have been stitched by children in Pakistani homes, the league's official supplier Nike admitted today. Nike is sacking its main manufacturer of hand-stitched balls, a Pakistani company called Saga Sports, because of concerns about "significant labour compliance violations". The company said a six-month investigation had concluded that Saga was outsourcing many of the balls to casual workers who sew them together in their homes around the city of Sialkot, near the Indian border. A Nike spokesman said home working was unacceptable: "If you have production in homes, it's very difficult to monitor safe labour conditions. There's also the potential for underage labour which we obviously do not condone."

Premier League balls have been provided by Nike since 2000, when the company won the tender from rival Mitre. Initially, Nike paid the league close to £10 million for a three-year deal and in return got publicity, corporate hospitality and licensing rights. The arrangement was renewed in 2003 for an undisclosed sum, The Guardian reported. The Premier League was fully briefed by Nike in advance of today's decision. A league spokesman said: "We can only support Nike in taking action where they've found their standards of labour have been violated."