For many fans, buying their teams jersey is the number one outwards sign of their fandom. In many ways, this goes double for fans who do not live in the same city, state or even country to their team.
If you live in the same city as your team, there is, of course, no shortage of ways to show your support from your team, and your teams logo and colours are so well recognised that going “all out” and wearing your team jersey may even be considered overkill. But in the UK, showing your support often needs to be a little less subtle, and wearing your team jersey, especially on game day, becomes a necessity if you are watching with other NFL fans.
The UK is one of the two markets the NFL is heavily targeting to house a new franchise in, the other being Los Angeles. It is increasing the number of games taking place in the UK each year—three regular season games will be hosted in Wembley Stadium in 2014—and the fanbase is growing exponentially each year as Sky Sports, Channel 4, The BBC and EuroSport increase their coverage.
Which is why it is so surprising that the NFL’s UK shop carries such a pitiful selection of team jerseys on their europe.nfl.com store. For many fans, eBay has become the go-to destination for NFL merchandise, but even this has it’s issues, not least of which being that there is no guarantee that the items you will receive will be officially licensed. All too often, the apparently official jersey you purchase turns out to be an overpriced Chinese knock off.
Which has got more than a few fans thinking… Why not just cut out the middle man, and go directly to the Chinese manufacturers yourself? after all, nine times out of ten, that’s all you’re getting anyway when you buy from eBay.
Sure, the idea of buying fake or knock off goods may be hard for some fans to swallow, but here are three good reasons to at least consider it.
This may go without saying, but buying fake NFL Jerseys is cheaper than buying officially licensed merchendise… A lot cheaper.
On average, you are going to pay around £13-20 for an “Elite” Jersey from a chinese wholesaler, whereas the cheapest official jersey generally available from the NFL’s European store is £70, and the cheapest I have ever seen one, even during clearance sales is in the high £40’s or low £50’s.
For a fan, of course, the idea of shelling out even £70 to support your team isn’t so bad, and if that was the only issue, this article wouldn’t exist at all. However, it isn’t the only issue. Which leads us to…
When browsing the NFL European Shop, most fans would be forgiven for thinking that, for most teams, only one jersey is widely available. For the Arizona Cardinals, for example, it is the Red (home) Larry Fitzgerald jersey, or Andy Dalton’s Black (Home) jersey for the Bengals.
This may not seem like a problem, after all, these are usually the players and colours you’d want anyway. But soon, a problem immediately presents itself. After all, I see 53 guys on the field on a sunday, all wearing Home, Away, and sometimes Alternate jerseys. What if I want one of their uniforms. What if I decide I want to also wear the team’s away jersey, or show my support for a different player. What happens if that player goes down with a long term injury, or is benched for a time?
If you’re a Patriots, Dolphins, Steelers or one of the other few teams blessed with a large fan base in the UK, you’re somewhat in luck, because the NFL Shop offer some customization options (at a £20 additional cost, of course), for a select few teams. But if you’re not one of those blessed few, if you want to buy an away, third or custom jersey, you’re are probably out of luck.
And then there are things like like a long sleved jersey, an “Impact” designs (dark numbers on a dark jersey) or one of the dozens of other special edition jerseys Nike produce (like throwback jerseys, or those with Super Bowl patches). Again, if you’re a UK fan, you’re just going to end up disappointed.
Put simply, if you’re looking for anything other than your team’s home jersey, with the name and number of their most popular player (or at least, the person expected to be their most popular player at the start of the season), then you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
Sure, the NFL and Nike will ship directly from their respective US stores for these sorts of orders, but then you are adding (typically) around $30 for shipping, plus around another £20-80 per jersey in import taxes and duties, depending model of jersey ordered. Which brings us to the final issue.
It seems like a no-brainer that the quality of an officially licensed jersey, manufactured by a well respected company like Nike would be of better quality than a cheap chinese made imitation, and if comparing like for like, there would be no comparison.
But herein lies the final issue, unfortunately, we are not comparing like for like here.
Nike make three tiers of officially licensed replica jerseys. They call them “Game”, “Limited” and “Elite”.
Elite jerseys are, according to the marketing information, constructed to nearly the exact specifications as the gear worn on field by the teams. Individual players jerseys are, of course, customised and tailored to the player, and are generally accepted to have a lot more stretch in them, but otherwise, the Nike Elite jerseys are supposed to be indistinguishable from those worn by the players.
In the middle, are the “Limited” jerseys. The idea behind this tier is that they are visually identical to the Elite jerseys, but without being made from exactly the same material. The idea is, that although you want the look of the players on-field, you don’t need, for example, the same waterproof, moisture ebbing material or “strategic ventilation zones” while sitting in the stands.
At the bottom end, then, there is the “Game” jersey, a piece of clothing which, sadly, barely even deserves to carry the name “jersey”. It is, in reality, a t-shirt (albeit a very nice one) designed to resemble the teams jerseys in cut and design elements. However, at it’s core, it is nothing more than that. The player names and numbers are screen printed onto the shirt, rather than sewn on, as in the limited and elite jerseys. The most distinctive feature of the new Nike jerseys, the flywire collar, is also missing off this edition. Make no mistake, this is still a nice shirt, and a significant step up in quality from the Reebok equivalent it replaces, but a realistic replica it most certainly isn’t.
So guess which edition NFL’s European store sells… You got it, the Game jersey.
If I wanted my jersey replica to include visible features like the Flywire collar and sewn numbers, letters and logos, then my only official option is to order from the US NFL Store, along with it’s expensive delivery and import costs.
For example, a Nike Elite jersey costs $249.99 to begin with. Shipping to the UK adds another $29.95, bringing the grand total I pay the NFL to a whopping $279.94, or approximately £169.75*. However, once the jersey lands in the UK, you are going to add to that price:
- £20.37* Import Duty.
- £38.02* Import VAT.
- £8.00 Post Office Handling Fee.
(*Prices accurate at time of writing based on a USD/GBP exchange rate of 0.6063)
All of a sudden, your £170 jersey is costing you over £228 once it lands in the UK.
On the other hand, your chinese imitation jersey is, on average, costing you £15-25 including shipping costs, import taxes and post office fees.
Now, in general, the quality isn’t going to be the same as the NFL Elite jersey (though it’s often not far off—waterproof material is now commonplace amongst the best quality NFL fakes). You are going to spend a little time trimming loose stitches, and as a hardcore fan, may even notice one or two little things that aren’t quite right. It’s not going to be a perfect replica… but is it better than Nike’s Game jersey? You betcha it is!
So should you buy a Fake NFL Jersey… In truth, only you can answer that question for yourself.
There are clearly other considerations to factor in—ethical and legal ones amongst them—before deciding if you are going to take the plunge, as well as the obvious issues which arise when things go wrong.
But if you’re still considering buying a fake NFL Jersey, then check out our buying guides, and reviews (coming soon) for the best advice, and to ensure you don’t get stung.