Our client, a major English football team had been battling the sale of counterfeit goods and illegal ticket selling internally before contacting an investigator. There were two major issues and both required an entirely different approach, the first issue was with merchandisers selling counterfeit and unlicensed goods around the ground on match days, this issue was relatively straight forward for our team, the clubs issue was that between them and trading standards they only had limited staff and they were well known by the retailers so they would simply move or hide the products before they had a chance to see them. The second issue was more complex, they were seeing organised criminal gangs setup fake fan profiles to buy and resell tickets throughout the season so that they would have preference when it came to important games such as local derbies and cup games.
We took a team of investigators to the club’s ground and spent a full day with the club’s merchandise department and a trading standards representative who had been previously working on the case. We identified key indicators on particular products and merchandisers that were of concern to the club and chose a selection of fixtures we would attend. On match day our investigators travelled to the ground and walked past a number of merchandisers obtaining covert footage of their products, they had been provided with match tickets so they were simply attending the game as any other fan. They were able to gather footage of the problematic merchandisers and purchase counterfeit merchandise that would later serve as evidence.
The second issue required our team to setup a number of aliases and addresses that could be used for delivery, a number of the test purchases were made online so we couldn’t risk using their own addresses through risk of compromise. The team began making ad-hoc purchases from specified websites and collating evidence about the accounts money was sent to, the names and addresses being provided and also in some situations the tickets were actually season tickets being ‘borrowed’ from genuine members.
The evidence we obtained was used as part of a larger investigation and due to the reselling of football tickets being illegal under section 166 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 we had to be meticulous with the preparation, handling and transfer of evidence. Overall the operation was a resounding success leading to the revocation of a number of merchandisers licenses and assisted with a number of criminal convictions.