Can you spot the fake shirt and the real McCoy?
It's the pride and joy of any self respecting football fan but is the shirt on your back the real McCoy? Inside Out investigates counterfeit football shirts.

Every football season eager Magpie fans queue up to grab the new Newcastle United football shirt.

Newcastle United fans spend millions of pounds each year buying these replica kits. It's a symbol of pride and any self-respecting Toon Army fan has to have one.

But many supporters could be buying shoddy copies smuggled into Britain by organised gangs.

Away from the bright lights of St James' Park, counterfeiters are one step ahead of the game. Inside Out travelled to Bangkok to investigate the growing problem of counterfeit shirts.

 Fake football shirts

Earlier this year a plot to smuggle hundreds of fake football shirts into Newcastle city centre was uncovered by Customs investigators.

The counterfeit Newcastle United shirts were made in Far East sweatshops and were destined for car boot sales, market stalls and pubs.

The consignment of 88 shirts from Thailand was seized at Newcastle Airport in May 2003.
The real shirts sell for about £40 but these inferior copies were designed to be sold for around £10


 Winners and losers

Counterfeit shirt trading is big business and it's a growing problem for fans and football clubs.

Fans might think they are getting a bargain but they are buying inferior goods.

Those found smuggling goods can be prosecuted and can be fined up to £10,000 under the Trademark Act 1994.

As well as organised smugglers, counterfeit clothing is often brought back to Britain by tourists travelling back from Thailand or Turkey.

Tourists might think that they've grabbed cut price merchandise but they're also encouraging the black market trade.


Counterfeit capital

Bangkok is the counterfeit capital of the world, and Pat Pong Market is THE place to go for cheap, fake replica gear.

Our visit to the market was eye-opening. We were able to buy copies of the latest Newcastle United club shirts for as little as £2 each.

The only problem - they are complete fakes.

All the big brands have representatives out in the Far East trying to clamp down on counterfeiters.

But it's an uphill struggle. Pat Pong Market springs up daily at 7pm when it's too late at night for local police to obtain a search warrant.

Although there have been raids, there appears to be an almost unlimited supply of fake shirts being manufactured.

Giving counterfeiting the red card

Inside Out witnessed one raid on a back street sweat shop.
Nearly 3,000 counterfeited items were found, and the criminals were prosecuted.

The Thai market in counterfeit shirts doesn't just serve English football fans.

Football fever is rife in Thailand, and locals are keen to buy shirts at low prices.

Bangkok even has its own branch of the Newcastle United supporters club!

Their members say that it's hard to resist a bargain fake shirt.

The cost of an official Newcastle United shirt is worth a week's wages in Thailand.

The rip-off replica shirts are just 10% of the price.


The down sideCounterfeit shirts can result in many problems:

- damage to the business of the legitimate manufacturers of goods;
- poor quality products which do not perform or last as long as expected;
- the customer can find it hard or impossible to get a refund;
- counterfeit sales can contribute to gangs involved in weapon smuggling,prostitution and organised crime;
- rip off shirt sales reduce income and investment in your football club;
- counterfeit shirts are made by low paid workers in sweat shops;
- fake goods have an impact on the local economy and jobs back home.

Spotting fakes

-Examine the shirt carefully. The quality of materials used and printing will be inferior for counterfeit goods.

-Be suspicious of clothing with no or poor quality labels, poor quality printing or embroidery of logos.

-Be wary of goods with prices that are too good to be true.



Spot the difference

Back home the dilemma for English fans is 'how do you spot a fake shirt'?

It's easy to spot the difference when you put the two shirts side-by-side.

Most fake shirts are not as well cut, and are often manufactured from cheaper materials.
Sometimes the club badges have a slightly different, simplified design.
The main giveaway is likely to be the ridiculously low price.


Stiffer penalties?

So what is being down to stop the trade in counterfeit shirts?

"It's a problem. We're trying to take action to prevent counterfeit goods coming into the country."

"It's a difficult operation to stop," says Newcastle United's Trevor Garwood.

"My advice to fans is - if you're offered it, don't buy it," he continues.

Although clubs and shirt producers are trying to stamp out the fakes, it's a hard trade to eliminate because of the number of people involved.

On the losing side

It seems that the trade in fake shirts is likely to continue unless radical action can be taken.

The real losers in this game of counterfeit trading are the supporters who are buying inferior shirts.

But at the end of the day there's no substitute for the real thing - a new, 100% original Newcastle United shirt as worn by Alan Shearer and Kieran Dyer


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