Enforcement officials and representatives from Premier League clubs joined forces to highlight the issue of counterfeiting within the football industry at the ‘Football Against Fakes’ Conference, which ran on Thursday 23 September at the Emirates Stadium. Officers from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), the National Crime Agency and the Federation Against Copyright Theft attended the event which affords Premier League clubs and their partner organisations the opportunity to develop key working relationships and knowledge sharing to help protect their brands.
Over the course of the 2015-2016 season, the Premier League alone seized almost 100,000 counterfeit merchandise items worth more than £1 million, taking the total value of items recovered beyond the £10 million mark since the scheme began back in 2007. This figure doesn’t consider clubs’ own seizures and those of their kit manufacturers.
Representatives from current Premier League champions Leicester City FC and The Football Association joined other industry experts in speaking about the Premier League’s dedicated anti-counterfeiting programme, as well as taking part in detailed discussions on digital investigations.
Throughout the day, Premier League club representatives also exhibited official merchandise to demonstrate the difference between this and fake goods and enable attendees to develop key working relationships with the authorities who help protect their brands.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliff, head of the City of London PIPCU, stated: “Our analysis shows that sportswear products and accessories remain the most counterfeited products sold online. This demonstrates not only the huge consumer appetite for sportswear, but also the importance of our solid partnership with the football industry in identifying and disrupting fake websites. So far, we’ve overseen more than 13,500 takedowns of counterfeit websites and prevented thousands of consumers from becoming victims duped into handing over their personal and payment details to criminals who then often commit further crime through identity theft.”
DCI Ratcliff added: “No football supporter should feel the disappointment of purchasing a product with their hard-earned cash only to discover that it’s not genuine. Together with our partners, we will continue to tackle this issue head on by maximising intelligence sharing and working partnerships at every possible opportunity.”
Ros Lynch, copyright and IP enforcement director at the UK Intellectual Property Office, commented: “Opportunistic counterfeiters have benefited from the increasingly distinct and unique design of Premier League football shirts. The UK Government and its partners in law enforcement are working hard to bring an end to this practice. Cross-border collaboration is vital as the global popularity of Premier League clubs makes them a target for IP thieves right across the world. To face this challenge and protect IP rights, we need to be as one in our anti-counterfeiting endeavours.”
Richard Masters, managing director of the Premier League, explained to Risk UK: “As interest in the competitive and compelling football delivered by Premier League clubs increases, so too do the challenges surrounding the production and sale of counterfeit goods. Every season, we’re made aware of fans who have purchased what they believe to be legitimate kits, tickets and club souvenirs, often for prices close to or at the same level as genuine products, only for them to then find out that they’ve bought poor quality fakes. Today’s event allows the Premier League and our clubs, many of whom are already doing excellent work in this space, to join forces with kit manufacturers, law enforcement agencies and other public bodies to share Best Practice and reaffirm a commitment towards reducing the trade in counterfeit merchandise.”
Protection from intellectual property crime
The PIPCU is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality physical goods and online and digital content from the scourge of intellectual property crime.
The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). In October 2014, it was announced that PIPCU would receive a further £3 million from the IPO to fund the unit up to 2017.
The unit comprises a team of 19 police officers and staff consisting of detectives, analysts and researchers. It’s based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, the national lead force for fighting fraud.
In April 2014, PIPCU launched Operation Creative, a groundbreaking initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content. To date, PIPCU’s unique partnership with the UK advertising industry has led to the identification of 1,150 websites providing illegal access to films, music, TV, books, games and films. These recognised sites are also the subject of the only police-driven Infringing Website List which is understood to be the first of its kind in the world.
PIPCU is headed by DCI Peter Ratcliffe, who took on the role in June 2015 and has over 24 years’ experience as a police officer. DCI Ratcliffe has worked in a variety of specialist detective posts managing investigations into asset recovery and money laundering. Alonside PIPCU, DCI Ratcliffe also manages the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit on a national basis.
Since the launch of PIPCU in 2013, this dedicated policing unit has:
*investigated property crime worth £33.8 million
*conducted 81 investigations
*arrested 66 individuals for fraud, copyright, counterfeiting and cyber-enabled offences
*protected consumers from being scammed online by suspending over 13,654 websites selling fake branded goods
*achieved a 73% reduction in top UK advertisers placing paid for adverts on illegal copyright infringing websites
*diverted thousands of consumers away from counterfeit websites containing malicious malware and viruses
*identified and offered advice to over 600 identity theft victims who have had their personal details used by criminals to set up counterfeit websites
*established new working relationships with a range of industries designed to tackle a wide remit of potentially dangerous counterfeit goods
Further information on PIPCU is available online at: https://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/advice-and-support/fraud-and-economic-crime/pipcu/Pages/default.aspx