As the UEFA Euro 2024 semi-finals approach kick off, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) continue to tackle foul play from counterfeiters whose goal is to profit from illegal activity.

Counterfeit football shirts and kits worth an estimated loss to the industry of £98,300 have been seized across the country by PIPCU in the run up to Euro 2024 and throughout the tournament.

Eight people have been arrested for offences relating to the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods.

While a fake football shirt may seem like a harmless bargain, the proceeds from counterfeit goods can often fund other criminal activity such as money laundering, forced labour and drug operations, with counterfeiting now thought to be the second largest source of criminal income worldwide after illegal drugs.

T/ Detective Chief Inspector Emma Warbey, from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at the City of London Police, said:

“Few events match the UEFA Euro tournaments when it comes to pulling in a global audience. The popularity of the event means that there is a significant demand for merchandise, with fans buying these products to demonstrate support for their country. Sadly, the increased demand for merchandise also leaves consumers and brands open to the risk of counterfeiting.

“Counterfeiting is a lucrative business, with criminals relying on the demand for cheap goods, alongside low production and distribution costs, to fund other illegal ventures. We’re sending a clear message that the links between counterfeiting and other crime, alongside the low quality of counterfeit products, can never amount to a good deal.”

Five people were arrested during raids at a shop and five residential addresses in Camden, north London. Around 6,000 counterfeit items, including £9,600 worth of Euro 2024 shirts, were seized. Those arrested have been released under investigation.

Raids at a shop and residential address in Haslemere, Surrey, resulted in shirts worth £50,000 being seized. A man was arrested and released under investigation.

In Sheffield, officers seized £25,000 worth of counterfeit product including football kits. A man was arrested and bailed pending further enquiries.

Clothing worth £13,700 was also seized from a storage unit in Enfield, north London, during a warrant executed in connection to the sale of counterfeit football shirts on Facebook Marketplace. A man was arrested and received a caution, a condition of which was to take down the Facebook Marketplace seller profile.

Marcus Evans, Deputy Director of Intelligence and Law Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), said:

“As fans show their support for their favourite teams at Euro 2024, criminal networks continue to exploit their loyalty by targeting the market with counterfeit kits. The production and sale of these is anything but a victimless crime. It does nothing to support the game of football, but instead supports the lifestyles of the criminals involved – diverting funds away from the sport into the hands of serious and organised crime gangs.

“The trade in counterfeits has been estimated to cost over 80,000 jobs in the UK each year, and is strongly linked to other forms of serious crime – including the trade in illegal drugs, people smuggling and modern slavery.

“We will continue to work with our partners to help tackle this threat to our communities, raising awareness and empowering fans to make informed choices, helping benefit all who love the game.”

Figures from the IPO show that the annual loss to the economy through counterfeiting and piracy is £9 billion. In addition, they have been estimated to cost around 80,000 jobs in the UK each year.

Counterfeiting also has a considerable impact on the rights of workers around the world. The nature of conducting illegal activity means that the criminals involved in manufacturing counterfeit goods are unlikely to follow health and safety regulations, both in terms of the workers who make counterfeit goods and the products themselves.

This can leave consumers with products that do not meet safety standards or are of significantly poorer quality than genuine items.

However, the latest research from the IPO shows that 12 per cent of people who purchased sports products have also bought counterfeit items in that category, with the highest demand from people aged 25 to 34 years.

The research also found that it is not always obvious to consumers that they are buying a counterfeit product, particularly when shopping online. As well as raising awareness of the harmful impact of counterfeiting, PIPCU and the IPO are asking fans to know how to spot the signs that a football shirt is counterfeit.

How to identify a counterfeit football shirt

Check the price. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do not be lured into thinking you are getting a great deal.
Look out for signs of poor quality. Poor stitching, fabric quality and fit are often tell-tale signs of a counterfeit product. Look inside the shirt and examine the quality of the stitching, particularly around the neckline and badge. If a shirt looks poorly made, it probably is.
Pay attention to detail. A counterfeit shirt may appear, for example, to have been made by Nike but have Adidas branding on the tag.
Be wary of swing tags. A swing tag attached to a shirt does not guarantee that it is genuine. Check that the swing tag has a unique product code sticker (a barcode sticker) and that the same code has not been pre-printed and stuck on each swing tag. The swing tag should also include wording that specifically correlates to the product. If the text is generic, such as ‘ADIDAS JSY’, the shirt is counterfeit.
Watch out for pen marks on the care labels. Check the care label inside the shirt for any numbers or marks that have been written using a pen. Counterfeit shirts can often have pen marks on the care label as this can be a method used by manufacturers to help count the number of items.
Buy from reputable sellers. Always purchase from a reputable retailer to ensure you are paying for an official product. It is easy for criminals to use photos from official retailers on counterfeit websites. Buying from these websites can leave you at risk of having your personal and card details compromised, so always ensure that the website’s URL starts with ‘http’ or ‘https’.
Notes to editors

The United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice estimates that counterfeiting is now the second largest source of criminal income worldwide.
Data from the Intellectual Property Office can be accessed here: IPO counterfeit goods research – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

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