Fake football shirts: Alarming increases in distribution and design

Fake football shirts have been popular for years. However, the quality of these shirts is increasing and so is their marketing strategy. New Red Points research has revealed alarming results about the prevalence and quality of fake products entering the market for counterfeit football jerseys.


Research has shown a significant increase in the number of fake football shirts posted on social media.

The demand for fake football shirts by consumers is increasing.

Even the most loyal fans can be fooled by counterfeit quality.

Street hawkers were the main source of counterfeit football shirts until the advent of ecommerce. They could be arrested and their goods seized. Instead, online commerce allows consumers to order a fake football jersey and have it delivered to their homes in just a few clicks. There are many websites, and the owners of these sites can often be difficult to trace, especially if they use false identities. This problem is made more complicated when anonymous sellers use platforms such as Amazon, Makeitfutbol and Alibaba. In recent years, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and WeChat have been added.



Since 2015 monitoring began, the number of social media detections of Red Points fake football shirts has more than doubled. In 2015, it was over 58,000. Now it is at 252,000.

Fake football is not the only sport that is affected by counterfeiting. Red Points’ research has shown that Facebook is the most popular social media platform for counterfeiting sportswear. Similar trends have been observed in rugby. It has been steadily increasing in popularity since the introduction of the sport at the Olympic Games in 2016. This includes China and Japan. Fake rugby jerseys are widely being sold on social media in order to profit from the sport’s increasing popularity. Fake cricket bats can be purchased online, particularly for Indian consumers.

It shouldn’t be surprising, given the rapid growth of the industry in recent years. In 2013, counterfeiting was valued at US$461 million. By 2022, the value of counterfeiting is expected to rise to US$2.3 trillion.


These results do not necessarily indicate that counterfeiters are abandoning one channel to make more money, but rather they reflect diversification in their sales strategies and exploration of new opportunities. There are two main reasons for this increased presence, according to the research. Social media platforms are more popular than ecommerce websites due to their larger user base. They also have better targeting and segmenting tools that counterfeiters can use in order to target consumers with greater precision.

Red Points research has shown that counterfeits are being sold by individuals using social media. It is not practical to set up an entire ecommerce site for such a small business. However, social media is more efficient and time-saving.


In recent years, social media has become the preferred channel for counterfeiters. Red Points’ study reveals this to be even more evident in football jerseys. Red Points detected counterfeits on AliExpress at 26.5% in 2015. This number has dropped to 5.4% in 2017 and jumped to an incredible 46.3% on Facebook in 2017. This rapid shift in strategy by counterfeiters can be attributed to a variety of factors.

Note: Due to client restrictions, detections from Amazon were deliberately omitted


Facebook has been publishing their own trademark and copyright reporting data since 2017. The data shows a steady rise in complaints about posts and pages that contain IP-infringing material. This trend is not new. Brand protection professionals have been watching it for 5 years. It has led many to wonder if Instagram and its owner Facebook are having a problem with counterfeits.

According to the Red Points study, while infringements numbers on ecommerce sites are more or less stable over time, they have seen an increase in infringements on Instagram and Facebook by nearly 300% over three years.

“Football clubs have been having a problem with social networking for some time now, but it seems that it is growing faster in recent months. There are many reasons why football clubs are more affected by social media than other brands. Because of the numerous marketing tools on social media, football fans are easy to target.

Joan Porta, Head Brand Protection at Red Points

As these can be easily tracked by Facebook and other brand protection services, posts should not use the club’s nickname or name. Pages are more likely to link to other sites or provide numbers to Whatsapp groups, where policing can be difficult or impossible.

Find out how fake football shirts affect brands and how they are sold


Red Points conducted a second study on this topic, which surveyed men aged 18-44. Nearly 90% of respondents were unwilling to spend full retail price for official football jerseys. Many (38%) of the respondents also admitted to having bought a fake shirt in the past. This is likely because of the skillfullness with which counterfeiters can disguise their goods as genuine.


Another question asked the same respondents if they believed that buying fake football jerseys contributed to social problems such as unethical labor market and organized crime. Why do consumers continue to purchase counterfeit goods when they are well aware of the problems associated with it? The ever-improving quality of counterfeit products combined with the low price makes it a tempting deal for football fans. This is a bargain that authentic brands, which are responsible for designing the products, will find it almost impossible to match these replica football shirts.


Red Points had access to a variety of authentic and illegal football jerseys before the World Cup. Can you spot the difference between fake and real football shirts by looking at the photos below?



fake brazil jersey

real brazil football shirt



Real english football shirt

Fake English Football shirt



Real spain football shirt

Fake spain football shirt



Many readers will recognize the differences between the images. It is difficult to know what these differences actually mean. The problem is figuring out what the differences really mean. Rotating the emblem on Brazil shirts, for instance, is what you see. However, would any Brazilian football fan be able confidently to identify which emblem is which?

Congratulations if you can identify the first Brazil jersey image, second England jersey image, and second Spain jersey image as fakes. You are not the only one who is less skilled at identifying fake football shirts.


There are important questions: If you see fake jerseys listed in shops or online, and there is no official football jersey next to it, can you confidently tell if it’s genuine or fake? Is it really important to a consumer that they can fake a jersey and fool passers-by?

We are sure that many shoppers will not be able resist low-quality, high-priced shirts. Therefore, it is up to the brands to make sure that illegal and unethical products are not available on the market.

Not only can ongoing counterfeits cause revenue loss, but they can also have deeper consequences for businesses. A club that does not address fake shirt sales could devalue their brand and reduce the amount they can negotiate with sponsors. Investors, reputation, and ultimately players’ money are all affected by this loss of trust. This suggests that some football clubs have not prepared for their own success. If they want to control what happens on the pitch it is important to also control what happens online.

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