On target for fair play

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
An enterprise group in a Glasgow school have taken on the supermarkets and sports shops in the run-up to Christmas by producing and selling footballs.

In the process, pupils scored a whole range of curricular goals.

The balls display an anti-bigotry message and were manufactured by the same company that produces balls for retail outlets. But at pound;5 a ball they are up to 20 per cent cheaper.

The "Kick Bigotry Out" concept was taken from planning stage to production by the pupils at St Margaret Mary's High in Castlemilk. Each ball has an image of a player wearing a blue jersey and green shorts. Players from Celtic and Rangers were invited to the school for the launch earlier this month to reinforce the anti-sectarian message.

Ian Gilroy, enterprise education officer and modern languages teacher at the school, wanted something to increase the horizons of his enterprise groups. After a brainstorming session with one class, the idea of tackling bigotry through football was suggested.

Mr Gilroy said: "I wanted them to do something which would show what could be achieved if they put their minds to it. When the idea of making an anti-bigotry football came up, I knew this was an opportunity to make something special and give the kids a concrete example of making a success of something.

"The kids were over the moon with the results. Now, instead of trying to get them to be more ambitious, I am trying to rein in their enthusiasm.

They wanted to go over to Northern Ireland to sell (literally) the anti-bigotry message there, and I had to explain to them the problems of transport and accommodation."

Mr Gilroy, who owned a chain of 24 sports shops in Scotland and the north of England before becoming a teacher, used his contacts in the trade to have the balls made in Pakistan in a run of only 150 as a special favour.

This compares to a minimum run of 10,000 required for companies such as Umbro. Financial backing came from Glasgow City Council and the Determined to Succeed enterprise education initiative.

Profits will go to charity, including Christmas boxes for local pensioners, Yorkhill Hospital and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.

Mr Gilroy said: "The message of anti-bigotry is something that should be promoted in every school. And other enterprise officers have said they would like the anti-bigotry message to be spread across Glasgow by selling these footballs. I hope other schools can get involved."

Already St Margaret Mary's non-denominational neighbour, Castlemilk High, has agreed to sell the balls. The schools recently strengthened their bonds by submitting a successful joint bid to join the Scottish Executive's schools of ambition initiative.

"As the schools will be more closely linked together, something like working together to sell the anti-bigotry footballs will help bring down barriers," Mr Gilroy said. "We wanted to move away from the idea that, as enterprise officers, we were looking to develop entrepreneurial skills in the kids. We were also looking for them to progress socially and become socially aware."

Apart from price, the balls have an advantage over those sold on the high street. "Because of the design, these balls are a unique product which cannot be bought anywhere else. Of all the similar 32-panel footballs on sale this Christmas, ours are the cheapest. Asda and Tesco are selling the same football for up to a pound more. The price is very pocket money friendly."

Deploying his best sales pitch, Mr Gilroy added: "The balls would be an ideal Christmas gift for some football-mad person who wants to remain neutral . . . A group of kids saw them and said to me: 'Is that the balls that are only a fiver? I'm going to get one'."

The next step is to market the balls through other schools across the city.

And after that? Mr Gilroy and his enterprise group are planning their next coup - a commemorative ball for next summer's World Cup.

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