Play Fair Campaign

Since 2004

Play Fair is a global campaign coordinated by international trade union federations and NGOs: International Trades Union Federation (ITUC), International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC). The campaign calls on those who organize and profit from sports events to take specific steps to ensure that workers who work in the production of sporting goods and on construction sites for venues are not exploited and that international labor standards are respected at the workplace as well as in the stadiums.

The campaign began in the run-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics and was the biggest anti-sweatshop mobilization ever, organizing 500 local campaign events across 35 countries, and managing to collect more than half a million signatures in support of the campaign.

Since then, campaigns have been organized around many sports events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Campaigns aimed at event organizers, construction companies and sports goods brands were run of the Ukraine and Poland European Championship, the London 2012 Olympics and the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Toying with Workers’ Rights

The Toying with Workers’ Rights report, published by the Play Fair Campaign, shows evidence of child labor, excessive hours, poverty wages, dangerous working conditions and an absence of independent trade unions in the production of Olympic merchandise. The report was compiled using undercover researchers who investigated the treatment of workers at two factories in China’s Guangdong Province where London 2012 badges and the Games’ mascots Wenlock and Mandeville were made.

This mounting evidence of the exploitation of workers in Olympic supply chains has been presented to the International Olympic Committee, which has so far failed to take a public stand against exploitative labor practices despite similar evidence emerging from earlier Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and before.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has agreed to take concrete steps to ensure that workers making goods for the London Games have their rights respected. Yet, campaigners say that steps to protect workers who produce merchandise for the Games must also be adopted at an international level if change is to be sustainable.

Dominique Muller, of the International Clean Clothes Campaign said: “A clear signal from International Olympic representatives must be given to all future games hosts, that Olympic exploitation is not acceptable. So far, the IOC has been resisting any moves towards creating and monitoring fairer conditions for workers – this must end.”

The Play Fair partners have written to IOC President Jacques Rogge, asking him to meet and discuss the way forward to ensure these small steps are built into the preparation of future Olympic Games.


The London Olympics Organising Committee (LOCOG) has agreed to publish the names and locations of most of the factories producing London 2012 licensed products in China and the UK, to provide workers with information and training on their rights, to set up a Chinese-language complaints hotline, and to work with partners in the Play Fair alliance to help stop similar exploitation in future Olympics.

Researchers found widespread evidence of exploitation including:

  • Low wages – in some cases below the legal minimum, i.e. workers were not paid enough to cover even the most basic living costs and factories failed to make benefit payments required under Chinese law for pensions or medical insurance. For example, an Olympic mascot retails at around £20, but the worker who produced it may be earning as little as £26 a week.
  • Poverty wages forcing employees to work long hours, in some cases up to 100 extra hours a month, in violation of national laws. Workers complained to researchers of 24 hour shifts or of having to work seven-day weeks. Overtime was usually compulsory.
  • Instances of children being employed to make pin badges – in direct violation of both Chinese labor law and the LOCOG code.
  • In one of the factories, workers complained they had no employment contracts and were not given wage slips, making it nearly impossible for them to know their rights or if they were paid correctly. In another factory, workers were locked into five-year contracts and were fined if they tried to leave earlier.
  • Both factories had poor health and safety, with protective equipment either wholly inadequate or not compulsory. Workers received no safety training and back problems were commonplace – a result of hours and hours spent sitting on stools on factory production lines.
  • Workers were prevented from joining unions or coming together to complain about factory conditions. An employee who had raised a grievance was fined for offending a supervisor. In addition, not a single worker at either of the factories knew about the LOCOG code or what it meant for them. They had never heard of the existence of a complaints mechanism either.
  • Widespread evidence of audit fraud, e.g. inspections announced in advance failed to uncover any evidence of ill-treatment as the workers were often coached, threatened or bribed to mislead auditors. Workers feared that if they told the truth about their working conditions, they would lose their jobs.

Porträt von Maik Pflaum

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me:

Maik Pflaum
Contact person for El Salvador, clothes and toys
Phone: +49 (0) 911  214 2345

Porträt von Patrick Niemann

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me:

Patrick Niemann
Contact person for raw materials and toys
Phone: +49 (0) 251  674413 16