Before buying a fake NFL jersey, there are some things to know. Here are answers to some common questions
Q. Is buying fake NFL merchandise illegal?
A. Buying counterfeit goods in the UK is a legal grey area. In general, however, the answer presented in all government documents on the subject appears to be no, buying counterfeit goods is not illegal, as long as you are not doing so to resell the items. Selling these goods in the UK is clearly illegal however.
Although some European countries have established harsh fines and criminal sentences for anyone purchasing counterfeit goods, the UK’s official line is that while selling counterfeit goods is illegal and may carry serious penalties, buying them is not. Put simply, the UK lawmakers do not wish to criminalise people who have genuinely been fooled, and proving intent is more hassle than it is usually worth, so won’t be pursued in most cases, unless they suspect it is being resold.
That said, importing goods which you know to be fake is in contravention of HMRC’s rules, and can result in the goods being confiscated. You will usually not receive a refund in this case. You should consider this before buying from wholesalers, as any goods which are inspected as part of random checks will almost certainly be confiscated.
In addition, NFL and team logos, Nike “swoosh” and other trademarked design elements are protected by copyright, intellectual property and other laws, and these entities could pursue civil action against you for their misuse, though this is basically unheard of for individuals buying for personal usage, and again would only be done in the case of large scale importing for resale.
Q. Okay, so it may be legal, but is it ethical?
A. This is a much more tricky question to answer.
When you consider buying counterfeit goods, there are usually a lot of reasons presented against it. In general, these fall into four categories.
1. Poor quality, potentially unsafe, waste of money.
While this may be true of a lot of items, including consumer electronics, perfume and toiletries, watches and other mechanical items, for NFL jerseys in particular, this seems not to be the case, and our reviews section will help you evaluate this.
2. Counterfeit goods support organised crime, use child/bonded labour, support slavery etc.
This is a harder one to address directly, as it is impossible to know for sure where your goods are coming from, even if you order multiple items from the same supplier. It is true that counterfeiting has historically been the domain of Triads and other gangs, who use slave, underage or other questionable labourers to manufacture their wares, this is now largely considered untrue, or at least, no more significant an issue than in all other high volume manufacture abroad. Indeed, an EU funded report co-authored by Professor David Wall, an advisor to the british government, largely discredits this idea.
Other low cost retailers like Primark are known to utilise very questionable labour practices, yet many Britons still purchase from them. Indeed, volume of sales means that manufacturers of relatively low volume, relatively low value counterfeits like NFL jerseys would probably not be worth either the time or effort for the manufacturers to fund organised crime.
That said, it is definitely true that once they land in the UK, all counterfeits purchased from any UK resellers do support crime, as selling counterfeits is illegal in and of itself, and is often done by people involved in other crime.
3. Counterfeit goods hurt british economy, retailers.
Again, this is hard to quantify in absolute terms, but certain generalisations can be made.
Firstly, there are few, if any, UK retailers which sell these type of goods. Put simply, you cannot walk into your local sports shop in the UK and buy an officially licensed NFL jersey at any cost.
Secondly, NFL’s European Shop is run by Kitbag Ltd, a UK company. However, KitBag do not sell Nike Elite or Limited jerseys, do not offer significant customisation options, or even road jerseys for most teams. Therefore, in order to purchase these items, one must go direct to Nike or the NFL’s US based shops.
It is true that UK importers would pay additional import duty officially licensed items, when compared to Chinese wholesale imports, but the vast majority of chinese jerseys sold are above the £15 VAT limit, and therefore most fans will pay import VAT on their Chinese imported jerseys. It could be argued that this allows many more fans to purchase jerseys than would otherwise be able to afford to do so, which actually helps the UK economy.
Thirdly, several studies have shown that a significant percentage of individuals who purchase counterfeit goods—as many as 46% according to some studies—will go on to purchase the real thing later.
And finally, there is the simple fact that, in general, the money saved is not simply hidden away, it is generally spent on other items, many of which do support the local and national economy. Again, it is important to point out this is only true of items purchased directly from chinese wholesalers and manufacturers, and not at inflated prices from UK based resellers, many of whom have avoided paying import duty, VAT and other taxes.
4. Counterfeits hurt my team, the NFL, the value of their brands.
When counterfeits are of very poor quality, this may be true, but when it comes to most modern fakes, the evidence actually seems to indicate the opposite.
In general, the lower barrier to entry which counterfeits allow actually increases brand awareness and market growth, especially in an emerging market for the NFL, like the UK. It enables more fans to show their support for teams and sports which are not as well known in the country as certain others, and generally results in greater visibility for the sport.
Counterfeits also allow fans to purchase more goods with their money, helping to widen the net even further, and drawing in still more fans. Few fans would consider purchasing an official jersey for a friend or family member who is a marginal fan, but would happily purchase a £15-25 fake jersey, for a friend, who is then that much more likely to follow his team a little more passionately.
Although it is true that counterfeits result in some losses to the team, by way of lost royalty payments, the actual figures are so small as to be completely insignificant. The way the league structures it’s deal with manufacturers like Nike is that the vast majority of their royalty payments are by way of a large annual or up-front licensing fees, not per-item royalties. In fact, according to some reports, the actual figure individual NFL teams receive per jersey sold is just 11 cents a piece.
This is, of course, their royalty on wholesale items, those items sold by other retailers, teams will make much more significant profits sold through their local Pro Shops in their respective cities and states, where they receive a percentage of the retail value in addition to their tiny royalty, but in general, since shopping at our favourite team’s pro shop is out of the question for most UK fans, I’d guess we’d be forgiven for short changing our favourite team by 6 or 7 pence… especially if it means the money saved can be used on purchasing things like NFL GamePass.
Q. Can I not just purchase from a UK reseller of knock-off jerseys, rather than risking importing myself?
A. We strongly advise against this for several reasons.
Firstly, the main benefit of counterfeits—price—is largely erased by doing this. Often UK resellers will add between 50 and 200% to the wholesale prices they offer, bringing the prices from an affordable £15-25 to an expensive £50-150. This is the sort of price range where you can start to find official merchandise from authorised resellers.
Secondly, these sellers will often misrepresent the nature of their goods, implying that they are official licensed jerseys. Even if you do not fall for their ruse, you are funding the lifestyle of a scammer who is likely to fool others.
Thirdly, even if they are honest about their goods, and tell you they are fake, they will often have found ways to smuggle the goods into the UK, avoiding import VAT and other taxes which you will pay if you import directly (and you should pay).
And finally, because the only real reason to do so would be to avoid risks and have some comeback if something goes wrong, but buying from these resellers is no more likely to offer you these protections. Many who would sell these items are criminals, and will steal your credit card details or other personal information if they had the chance. Furthermore, they are often operating as “cowboys” and refuse to honour the consumer protection laws which would normally cover you in these circumstances.
Q. How can I avoid being scammed or ripped off when buying fake jerseys online?
A. First and foremost, only ever buy fake goods knowingly. Do not believe any explanations like “It’s made in the same factory, they just smuggle it out the back door” or “it’s just an item that has been returned to the supplier without tags on any more” to justify paying more for a (questionable) jersey than you would for a fake. It is probably lies.
If you suspect that the goods may be fake, but they are being presented to you as authentic, authorised or official, walk away. If the seller will lie to you about this, they will possibly do so about other things too… like their SSL encryption, data security and privacy policies.
Try to avoid person-to-person marketplaces like eBay, as there is too many options for deceit, or request significant documentation, like up-close photographs, when you do use them (some items like Game Worn or Game Issued jerseys can only be purchased on marketplaces like eBay).
Where possible, use third party carts, stores and payment processors like PayPal or Alibaba, who offer additional protection.
Then follow our Buying Guide and check out our reviews to see which wholesalers are reliable and produce good quality items.
Q. What about “Grey Market” goods or factory seconds/customer returns.
Grey Market goods are official and authorised products which enter the UK marketplace by unofficial, unsanctioned or unauthorised means.
Grey market goods are particularly popular in countries where tax rates on certain types of products are prohibitively high, in countries where official distribution channels do not exist or in situations where copying or counterfeiting the device is impossible.
None of these really apply to NFL jerseys.
There are several ways grey market goods enter the marketplace, typically they are either purchased in nearby countries with low taxes or where the exchange rate strongly benefits the buyer and are smuggled into countries they would usually cost much more, or else leave the factory out of the back door.
You will often hear people suggesting that they have access to these sorts of sources for NFL Jerseys however, almost always they are Cheap chinese manufactured copies resold at a premium. The stories vary from “They always make slight overruns of these things in case some are faulty, and they just have to get rid of them some how” to “I’ve got a guy who stays late in the factory and uses the exact same patterns, materials and machines to make his own”.
However, it’s almost never true, and would pose all kinds of issues even if it was. NFL jerseys, for example, are made in Honduras, not China. This may not seem like a big difference, but it is huge. Nike use over 200 different factories in China, many of whom also use other subcontractors, meaning that this type of loss somewhere along the supply chain is easily missed. In Honduras, however, Nike use just 10 large factories, none of whom use any subcontractors for the final assembly. These factories have very close links to Nike, and some work exclusively for them. The chance of this type of activity taking place is very unlikely at these large companies.
We strongly recommend avoiding purchasing any items described as “grey market” or implied to come from this way. They are almost certainly chinese imports which you are paying over the odds prices for.
Factory seconds are items which are manufactured by Nike, but which fail to pass quality control in some way, and are sold at a slightly reduced price.
Factory seconds are generally only available directly from Nike outlet stores—they do not usually sell them through third party retailers or wholesalers. The price reduction is rarely huge, and it is unlikely you will ever see massive bargains this way. If the seller has a single jersey, which has been purchased from a Nike outlet store, you may have a genuine Nike factory second product (called “B” grade by Nike). If the seller claims to have direct access to the factory, and can supply these in large quantities, this is always a fake being sold at an increased price, and they are using the “factory seconds” excuse to cover up their poor manufacturing quality.
We strongly advise that you avoid any retailer or wholesaler selling multiple “Factory seconds” or “B Grade” jerseys, and ask questions of anyone selling items singly. Make sure they would have access to a genuine Nike outlet store, usually in the area where the team is located. Ask to see receipts for purchase. If they can not provide them, walk away.