Fake Autographs Plague Fans of Liverpool FC
Sports collectors in the U.S. know that fake autographs are a problem the memorabilia industry is constantly struggling to overcome. They may feel like it's a uniquely American issue, but as it turns out, enthusiasts overseas are grappling with something very similar.
Fans of English Premier League team Liverpool FC are among the most zealous in the sport, and autographs from stars like Steven Gerrard and the squad's heroes from earlier years are in constant demand. With patience and effort, it's still possible to get signatures from football players the old-fashioned way - in person at the club's games - but that's not an option for some people, and that's where the trouble can start.
Liverpool has an active network of shady dealers engaged in producing forgeries, many of which end up for sale at the same place they do in the States: eBay. A common tactic involves the dealer getting a legitimate autograph to use as a starting point, often by paying kids to get them since the players are more likely to sign for young fans.
After that, it's simply a matter of practicing copying the signature until the fake ones get good enough to fool buyers. Like their American counterparts, some legitimate British dealers and hobby organizations are trying to educate collectors, but the popularity of the team and the money that can be made by unscrupulous types can make that task a difficult one.
"Liverpool FC has a thriving fake signature market," Gary King, ethics board director for the Universal Collectors Autograph Club, said to the Liverpool Echo. "It's tough to get signatures these days and people have got underhand to get things done. It's no good taking the word of the person who's selling them. Check them out. We actively try and gain information about bogus sellers and present cases to police and trading standards."
LFC's official online store sells just about every kind of product fans of the Reds could want but doesn't deal in autographed memorabilia. It is possible for collectors to find items from reputable dealers, even in the U.S. - it's just not cheap.
FansEdge has several different signed 20x16 posters of team captain Gerrard for sale, each for a tad under $345. The site also offers an autographed print of former Liverpool defender Tommy Smith for $175 and an autographed photo of John Arne Riise (now with Roma) for $60.