With the start of the World Cup less than two months away, South African cops are working hard to stem the tide of counterfeit jerseys:
A Swazi man was on Saturday night arrested at the Oshoek Border gate after allegedly being found with 12,000 fake World Cup soccer shirts worth E3.6million.
SAPS spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo yesterday confirmed the arrest of the Swazi man on Saturday and said the shirts were worth E3.6 million and other clothes worth E200 000 bringing the total to E3.8 million worth of counterfeit goods found in the truck. The arrest comes after the SAPS had seized counterfeit Bafana Bafana soccer jerseys worth between E15 million and E20 million between last month and today.
In watching the news report above, we couldn’t help but notice that the police captain appeared entirely unable to explain the economic reasons for the crackdown. And that got us thinking about whether the World Cup presents a situation in which counterfeiting may actually be economically beneficial, at least when all is said and done.
The stock analysis of apparel counterfeiting is that it’s a multi-billion dollar racket that provides zero benefit to national economies. But this take ignores several salient facts, starting with the impact on retail sales. As has been widely noted, official World Cup merchandise is far too expensive for most South Africans—jerseys are selling for approximately $150, in a country where the average per capita income is less than $2,800 per year. Fake jerseys can entice a whole new crop of consumers to pony up for football gear, largely to the benefit of small retailers who lack the capital to purchase official merchandise.
Oddly, there may also be a moral case to be made here. Unlike a professional franchise, a national team is theoretically the property of a country’s entire body politic. It thus seems unfair for such a team’s administrators to strike a licensing deal with a foreign company (Adidas, in this case) that puts official merchandise beyond the reach of the squad’s ostensible “owners.”
So let a thousand counterfeiters bloom this World Cup season. The South African cops should turn their attention to the violent illegal abalone trade instead.