SHERRIN has pulled all football manufacturing from its Indian subcontractors, after admitting some of its balls were being made using child labour.
On Saturday, The Age revealed Sherrins were being hand-stitched by children as young as 10, for as little as 12 cents a ball. The children, almost all of them girls, were being pulled out of school to stitch balls, for up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sherrin said it knew nothing of the child labour and promised an investigation.
In an announcement yesterday, Sherrin's parent company, Russell Corporation, said it was ''extremely grateful'' the matter had been brought to its attention and that, from today , no balls would be allowed to be subcontracted out for stitching.
''We have a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of under-age workers, and we are appalled that one of our subcontractors has used child labour in the stitching of our footballs,'' Australian managing director Chris Lambert said.
He said he believed only one subcontractor had used child labour, and that only 9000 balls had been sent to him.
In the slums of the Punjabi city of Jalandhar, The Age found Auskick balls being stitched by poor Indian children.
Sherrin has an agreement with Indian manufacturer Spartan to make its synthetic footballs.
From today , all of Spartan's stitching will be performed at a new factory.
Balls are stitched using two heavy needles and wax-coated string. Child stitchers end up with chronic back injuries, septic wounds in their hands, weakened eyesight, depression and other psychological disorders.
It is dangerous for them - and for users. The father of a six-year-old Melbourne boy told The Age yesterday his son had been pricked by a sewing needle found protruding from the skin of a Sherrin football. Marcus Ferlano said the football was part of an Auskick promotional pack his son received last year.
''I first thought the needle must have been left on the lawn but when I sliced it open, sure enough it's the same thread that's used on the inside stitching,'' Mr Ferlano said.
Last night, a spokeswoman for Sherrin said the company was ''appalled'' to hear of the incident and that it would be ''working around the clock'' tonight to review the supply chain to determine what happened.
Sherrin has withdrawn the promotional balls for the North Melbourne Football Club's grand final breakfast. The money paid for those balls will be donated to World Vision, after the club refused to pay Sherrin - which will donate profits from Auskick to Manav Sehyog Society, a charity in Jalandhar.
With RACHEL WELLS