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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 15:54 GMT
JPR backs fair trade rugby balls
JPR Williams with fair trade footballs
JPR said sporting bodies could help support fair trade
Welsh rugby legend JPR Williams wants to use sport to promote fair trade practices in developing countries.

The former Wales full-back has backed the use of fair trade rugby balls and footballs, which guarantee a living wage for workers making them.

He met pupils in Cardiff to promote the use of the balls, and other products, at the start of Fairtrade Fortnight.

Mr Williams told Radnor Primary School children they were the same age as youngsters making other balls overseas.

The 10 and 11-year-olds heard many of the non-fair trade footballs and rugby balls were stitched together by children working all day to help support their families rather than going to school.

He said he hoped to use his name to influence other people to support the idea of fair trade.

JPR Williams and schoolchildren with fair trade products
I think it would be a good thing if football and rugby took this on board
JPR Williams

"I hope that if people think, 'JPR Williams thinks its a good idea', they will think it's a good idea too," he told pupils.

"I think it would be a good thing if football and rugby took this on board. The footballs and rugby balls aren't any more expensive [than non-fair trade ones] so perhaps we should approach the sports' governing bodies about it."

Mr Williams has recently returned from a charity climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and he told the children seeing people's lives in developing countries highlighted the importance of giving them support.

"We don't have any idea in this country how poor people [in Third World countries] are, and anything we can do to support them and give them a fair wage has to be a good thing."

'So little'

Mr Williams, a surgeon, said he was a "big conservationist" and questioned the children over recycling habits.

He told BBC Wales' news website it was his first time promoting fair trade in this way but said he had a long-standing interest in the subject.

"You can't help but be affected how little they earn and the conditions," he said.

Pupils during the fair trade lesson with JPR Williams
As well as learning about fair trade, pupils picked up autographs

Mr Williams had not yet had a chance to test the balls, but commented: "They certainly look like they'll do the job."

At present, the balls are only for sale in fair trade shops and on the internet, but Sustain Wales, which is backing Fairtrade Fortnight, hopes they will become more widely available as knowledge of the products grow.

Children from the group said they had learnt a lot from the rugby star's visit - as well as bagging a few autographs for themselves - and their fathers.

Laura Simmonds, 10, said: "I thought there were only three products for fair trade and there are so many more. There's over 1,000."

Classmate Joe Tod, 10, added: "I didn't know [children overseas] were working for so little. I thought they were working less for more money."

JPR Williams, full back
18 Mar 05 |  Wales

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