You are here

No ball, no play


No ball, no play

Sport and Development organisations face challenges when obtaining sport equipment, and are looking to both local and international sources to supply their projects.

Without a ball it is difficult to play. Running a Sport and Development (S&D) project without sport equipment is even harder. In sourcing sport equipment, practitioners are faced with a number of challenges including small budgets, limited connections to suppliers, poor telecommunication opportunities, project participant expectations vs supplier capacities and requirements.

Finding ways to sustain this supply chain need to be found before we can even begin to discuss the impact a sport and play based project may have on development.

As S&D projects increase in number, there seems to be a need to take a closer look at the S&D equipment supply chain. Here are some initial questions to kick-off this discussion: 

  • Where are S&D practitioners currently getting their sport equipment from?
  • What are some of the challenges they face in sourcing this equipment? 

Local suppliers

Whether it is homemade equipment, bought from the local sport merchant, or manufactured by a local sport initiative such as Alive & Kicking, some S&D projects are using local sources to get their sport equipment. Malika Kons, from the Swiss Academy for Development Move 4 New Horizons project in Nepal highlights the benefits of this local approach:

'Whenever possible we try to rely on locally available materials. By doing this, we not only help support local economic activities, but also prevent problems of maintenance and (hopefully) show that for fun and exciting sport activities no fancy equipment is needed.'

International suppliers

There is also a wide range of international suppliers who are resourcing S&D projects with sport equipment. Large sport brands and retailers such as Nike and Dick's Sporting Goods are two of these suppliers. The International Alliance for Youth Sport's (IAYS) Global Gear Drive is another supplier which collects and distributes used and new sport equipment. UNICEF offers the "Sport-in-a-box" or "recreational kit" and the One World Futbol Project manufactures the virtually indestructible football adapted for rough playing conditions. 

Both positives and negatives

Whether choosing local or international suppliers, both have positive and negative consequences for S&D projects. In terms of the sustainability of the supply chain, keeping costs down, and alleviating the workload on project planning, it seems that choosing to go through local suppliers is a great option. However, what about the development of the sport and satisfying project participants, which may require providing better quality sport equipment via international suppliers?

Getting sport equipment from Uganda to Eastern DRC
My personal experience of working on the Sports4HOPE project in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has taught me that the shared values of project leaders will determine whether a S&D project chooses local or international suppliers.

Due to a scarcity of quality sport equipment in Eastern DRC, the team I was working with decided to import the equipment we needed for a football training event from Uganda. As getting quality sport equipment was important to us, it was an obvious choice.

Getting this sport equipment into the country was, however, a massive undertaking given our limited resources and the challenges of importing the equipment from Uganda to Eastern DRC. We spent a large portion of our time leading up to, during, and after the event on issues related to the sport equipment. We also had a terrible time dealing with the local customs officers who were only happy to increase import taxes for us. Despite these challenges, the result of the training event was very positive.

Sport's impact on development

The long-term impact has yet to be seen. Will our decision to look to international suppliers for our sport equipment have a long-term negative impact on development? Should quality sport equipment be a priority for S&D projects or should priority be placed on working within local realities by using local suppliers?

One thing is clear, if we are advocating the use of sport in development, we need to hold ourselves responsible to the impact our projects are having on development.


Article type



Stephen Reynard


Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 23:00