The rise of China as the global factory raises challenges for many developing countries and their producers. The football-manufacturing sector is a case in which China has emerged as a global player. It is also a sector where compliance with international labour standards is considered critical. Leading international brands dominate the industry and control the global value chain for sports goods. In this article, we explore the relationship between the rise of China and international labour standards and consider how labour standards have affected the geography and organization of global football production. We draw on evidence from three of the main production locations – China, Pakistan and India. It appears that compliance with labour standards not only has different implications for the three production locations, but also that compliance alone is an insufficient basis for competing against China.