Give injustice the Red Card - World Cup ideas from Ekklesia

By staff writers
June 9, 2006

Love it or loathe it, the media will be full of the World Cup over the next month, as football-lovers and football-haters make their respective preparations for Germany 2006.

In contrast, we hope, to the corporate and religious megaphone-merchants who will try to use the World Cup to proselytise on behalf of their interests, Ekklesia offers below some links to research and resources on soccer-related global concerns.

Contrary to the opinion of the late and much-loved Liverpool boss Bill Shankly, there’s all the difference in the world between football and matters of life and death. But there are surprising links, too.

Here we highlight especially five football-linked issues of:

* exploited labour
* global inequality
* aggressive nationalism
* sex trafficking, and
* fairtrade football

And we provide links to both secular and Christian organisations promoting positive action.

So to people in the churches, to people of faith, to people in competing nations, and to people of just ‘good faith’ (rather than religious belief), we say – here’s a quick guide to helping make the world a better place over the next month…


Labour Behind the Label and the Trades Union Congress in the UK are calling on the football associations behind the 32 competing World Cup teams to insist their sportswear sponsors call time on the production of replica kits in exploitative conditions.

In a detailed report, Sweet FA: Football associations, workers' rights and the World Cup (file format: Adobe Acrobat/ *.PDF), the two organisations say that football associations who are set to pocket more than £200 million in sponsorship this year - have the power to do what few other organisations do, and persuade sportswear companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro to change their behaviour.

In many factories used by the sportswear companies, working weeks of 80 hours or more are not uncommon, hourly rates of pay are so low that workers have to undertake excessive overtime just to make ends meet, and working conditions for most are unsafe. Employees who try to form unions risk dismissal, and in a workforce overwhelming made up of women, maternity leave is rare.

The report offers evidence of Honduran workers producing for Adidas and Nike earning just £85 per month, a quarter of what they need to meet their basic needs; Indonesian sportswear workers earning £51 per month, less than half what they need to live decently; and workers in El Salvador producing for Adidas and Nike who lost their jobs when they tried to form a union. More information here.

The TUC also has a concern for the plight of migrant workers. Further action suggestions here. And LabourStart has a petition campaign for improved wages for German cleaners, which will coincide with International Justice Day on 15 June 2006 - when matches take place in Hamburg, Nuremberg and Berlin.


Amnesty International, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) and various church-based organisations have been working over a number of months to highlight the concerns about forced prostitution and sex trafficking around the 2006 World Cup – where between 30,000 and 60,000 women and girls may be dragooned into the ‘sex huts’ being established in many of the 12 venues for the tournament.

Anti-trafficking groups point out that many vulnerable women have been pimped towards Germany to fulfil the extra ‘demand’ created by advertising for sex services.

They stress the importance of concerned parties working together across boundaries of culture, gender, faith and non-faith – to emphasise that opposition to the trafficking and forced exploitation of women is a basic human concern. People in the forced sex industry are keen to portray opposition as coming only from ‘religious prudes’.

The issue will be highlighted again by Germany 2006, but it is an ongoing concern. See Amnesty’s earlier statement, the report on Women’s News, and the CATW website – which provides research, resources and campaign suggestions. Donations to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women can be made here.

[Also on Ekklesia: Human rights and church groups protest against World Cup sex slavery; Nuns show the red card to forced World Cup prostitution; Campaigners highlight deaths of street children at UN; Campaigners welcome trafficking raid, but express concern for women]


The huge gulf in power and wealth between the World Cup competing nations (and between millionaire footballers and those at the bottom of society) mirror the scandalous global divisions between rich and poor in global society.

Whose side are we really on? asks PressureWorks, the campaigning initiative of the UK-based international churches' development agency Christian Aid - which works with a variety of partners across the globe, irrespective of creed. It says that Brazil isn’t the only team for 'neutrals' and for those looking for someone in addition to their country to back, supporting Angola and Ghana in the World Cup would be a good idea – and not just on the pitch. Both countries face huge challenges with conflict, inequality and oil or the lack of it. Christian Aid is building up to 'The Beat Goes on', an initiative to hold the UK and other wealthy countries to the promises they made on aid, trade and debt at the G8 summit.

Meanwhile, Oxfam says Africa is at a crossroads. Despite the development efforts of the past two decades, most Africans are getting poorer. Over 300 million people live on less than 1 US dollar per day. Life expectancy is 48 years and falling. Twenty-eight million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and 40 per cent of children are out of school. But there is hope, says their research, if people inside and outside the continent pull together. The fundamental issue, however, is justice not charity – and the full empowerment and self determination of African people in their own destiny.

CAFOD, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, is also marking World Cup season – there are five African nations taking part – with its Africa Focus campaign to raise £1 million for relief and development. Some footballers earn much more than that in a year.

[Also on Ekklesia: CAFOD kicks off its Focus Africa initiative; Child shot as homes are torn down in Angola; Church agency opposes Angolan demolition crackdown; Transform power and back Africa, says WCC head; Archbishop of Canterbury backs peace education in Africa; Africa may miss poverty targets by 100 years; Descendants of slaves seek justice from Lloyds; G8 outcome disappoints poverty and ecology lobbies; Red Motorola Slvr - Buy the Red Motorola Slvr and help Africa; Monks roll out bio-farming in Africa; Aid agency launches emergency appeal for East Africa; Christian Aid welcomes Brown's global education pledge]


Soccer both divides and unites. The history of the game has involved people transcending enormous divisions in the name of football. But it has also been implicated in wars and in aggressive nationalism. Questions of statehood and identity are especially highlighted by the participation of Serbia-Montenegro as one team in the 2006 World Cup.

Ekklesia is concerned to deploy theological arguments against the entrenchment of aggressive (often religiously-fuelled) nationalism, something which can be both reinforced and abated by sport. At the height of the EU Constitution debate, it co-published with Sarum College ‘Towards the Abolition of the Nation State?’ by Canon Richard Franklin. And it argued that faith communities have got to get beyond treating God and their own history as a way of getting one-up or preserving their own security - in a changing world, we need a global vision of faithful politics after Christendom, rather than faith and fratricide.

Mixing the wrong kind of religion in the wrong kind of politics can be deadly. But there are signs of hope. While those eager to preach at others during the World Cup need to be careful that they don't use zeal to encourage confrontation and misunderstanding, football itself offers a range of opportunities for breaking down religious barriers - including a parallel inter-faith tournament involving Christians and Muslims. Sport may not be everyone cup-of-tea, but it has a positive role to play.

The theme of peace is central in itself to the 2006 World Cup, whose tag line is “Time to Make Friends” and it is intended that this will be echoed by the ecumenical endeavour of the German churches during the tournament. There will be a chapel in the Berlin football stadium dedicated as a space for reflection away from the hustle and bustle of the World Cup – for people of all faiths and none.

Concludes fan David Cain [pictured above], a Catholic priest who is using part of Nottingham’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Barnabas complex as a ‘World Cup Chapel’: “Although, understandably many people will be fiercely cheering on their own nation, sport generally, and football in particular can provide a great bridge in promoting harmony between nations despite differences that exist in race, religion or politics”

[Also on Ekklesia: German churches to be peacemakers during World Cup, by Fran race; Fairtrade football - fair trade football gift ideas; Christians and Muslims score a goal against soccer racism; Will Baptist soccer bosses teach England's Sven about crosses?; World Cup proves a football blessing to Iran; Hallowed be thy game]


Any big sports event is a consumption-fest these days. Ekklesia isn’t urging people to buy yet more stuff, but if you do need goods – anything from mobile phone and kits to watches and footballs – there are plenty of Fair Trade alternatives, and products from which the proceeds go to justice and peace causes. See also our fairtrade football page.

On a lighter note, and in a minor concession to tackiness, Ekklesia has also produced super-elegant ‘Give Injustice the Red Card’ mugs and T-shirts to promote this web campaign. Our excuse is that they are tasteful, great value, and channel a percentage through to good causes.

[Also on Ekklesia: Fair trade clothes for him and her; Fairtrade football - fair trade football gift ideas; Fairtrade chocolate gifts; Fairtrade baby clothes; Fairtrade wine; Become a fairtrade activist! - ethical lifestyle ideas from Ekklesia; Cafe Direct fairtrade coffee; Fair trade goods from Tearcraft reach landmark; Christmas Decorations; Glasgow shopping centre encourages prayer and reflection; Sales of Fair Trade goods double; Christian business gets award; Fairtrade and conflict-free diamonds; Triple funding success for Traidcraft Exchange; Fairtrade Gifts; Say it with Mangos; Peace Products; Oxfam Gifts; Send a goat; World Vision gifts; Red Motorola Slvr; Ethical Shopping]

Keywords:world cup | football
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