Child labor fears over Euro 2008 giveaway balls

A picture shows the logo of the Credit Suisse bank next to a Swiss flag in Lucerne February 19, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

ZURICH (Reuters) - Footballs given away free by Switzerland’s Credit Suisse Group in the build-up to Euro 2008 may have been produced by child laborers, the bank said on Tuesday.

Credit Suisse said it took “relevant contractual precautions and confirmations” when it placed the order for the footballs, which were produced in Pakistan, but it “cannot at this time completely rule out the possible involvement of child labor.”

The bank, which is the main sponsor of Switzerland’s national team, launched the campaign to give away 200,000 children’s footballs last week, accompanied by a blaze of publicity.

Swiss national coach Koebi Kuhn and star player Hakan Yakin signed some of the footballs, which were handed out to get Swiss people -- particularly young footballers -- in the mood for Euro 2008, which Switzerland is co-hosting with Austria in June.

But television news show Tagesschau reported that children made the balls in villages in Pakistan, making just 0.39 Swiss francs ($0.39) for each finished item.

Credit Suisse said it attached great importance to cracking down on child labor and would therefore donate 1 million Swiss francs ($988,100) to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.

Despite the bank’s precautions, “Credit Suisse cannot exclude with absolute certainty at this time that children may have been involved in part of the football manufacture by the producer in Pakistan or their sub-suppliers, respectively,” it said in a statement.

The bank said it is also investing both its internal and external processes.

Reporting by Sam Cage, editing by Mark Ledsom and David Cowell