Fake football shirts - why your bargain buy could be funding crime 

The Euros has created fresh demand for England and Scotland replica shirts. But with both retailing between £80 - £85 it also sees a spike in the counterfeits.

Watch Nick Smith’s report:

Major international football tournaments like the Euros will lead to a huge spike in replica shirt sales, but it also presents an opportunity for many fake shirts to flood the market.

The trade in fake shirts has been around for several years, but recently the counterfeit copies have become more and more sophisticated. Some buyers claim that they can be almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Buying these counterfeit goods for personal use is not in itself illegal. However, Trading Standards officials who work to crack down on the counterfeit market are warning that purchasing fake football shirts could be funding things like child exploitation or organised crime as some sellers operate these businesses as a front for things like drug dealing.

Fake kits are often advertised on social media marketplaces. Some are being offered for £10, eight times less than official retail prices. / Credit: ITV News

Victoria Arrenberg, a Senior Trading Standards Officer said:

“These people are making these items for little money, long hours in poor conditions, but it’s also where that money’s going towards.

They tend to fund organised crime groups, so OCGs, and we know that, and we know that that money is then going on to fund things like drugs, people trafficking, modern day slavery.”

Fake kits also can harm official retailers by seriously undercutting them. Mystery Jersey King is an online business which sends boxes with randomly allocated shirts to subscribers. The owners say they now have to work harder to ensure the shirts they are sourcing are the real deal, to ensure collectors are not getting a substandard product.

Mystery Jersey King is an official shirt retailer, and says they can use things like product codes to check that merchandise is genuine. / Credit: ITV News

Co-Founder Alex Street said:

“No one wants a knock-off-Nigel when they can get the Real McCoy. That’s the way we kind of look at things. It’s a huge problem at the moment because it, it does affect businesses like ourselves.

What you find a lot with the fake shirts is the material’s not quite there. After a few washes, they can disintegrate. It’s definitely a different level of what you’re paying for from the fake markets compared to the genuine ones.”

However, many fans groups claim the rise in popularity of fake shirts is driven by the high costs of official replicas. An adult “stadium version” of England’s latest football shirt retails at £84.99. A junior version is priced at £64.99. That’s before adding extras like printed player names and numbers.

While a fake shirt can be imported from a Chinese market trader website for between £10 and £20.

Football supporters groups say there should be action taken to reduce the high price of replica football shirts. / Credit: PA

Brands have blamed the rising costs on inflation, citing that the materials and labour used to make these shirts have increased in price.

ITV News has contacted Nike for a comment.

The Football Supporters’ Association is calling for football shirt prices to be reviewed:

“In our national supporters survey last year 53% of fans agreed kit prices were important to them and, in that context, £119.99 for a kids’ match top does feel expensive, even more so if you want to buy your child the full kit.”

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