By Neil Reid

Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted opened up on the magnitude of the ever-growing problem of fake sportswear products last year, revealing up to 10 per cent of gear featuring his company's world-famous logo in Asia were most probably rip-offs.

Rorsted told CNBC that the fakes were both on sale online and in store, describing the issue of the counterfeit trade as a "big problem for our industry".

"In Asia it is a problem, but that's an overall market problem, where we believe that approximately up to 10 per cent in certain categories are fakes," he said.

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"We are seeing that in bricks and mortar and we are seeing that online. It continues to be a big problem for our industry."

The world's richest sporting leagues – as well as clothing companies who pay top dollar for exclusive rights to provide replica merchandise – have been involved in increased legal battles with fake producers over the past decade.

In the US, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association succeeded in 2016 in gaining a Federal Court ruling closing down 1057 websites selling fake sports jerseys and assorted memorabilia.

The court order came after the owner of clothing factory in China revealed he could produce 5000 fake NHL jerseys – which had all the features of the real thing – every month for just $23.

The NBA - which features Kiwi star Steven Adams - has been involved in numerous legal showdowns with fake gear manufacturers and sellers. Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire
The NBA - which features Kiwi star Steven Adams - has been involved in numerous legal showdowns with fake gear manufacturers and sellers. Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire

Despite the action, Canadian lawyer David Lipkus – who has worked with top sports leagues in their crackdown against counterfeit gear – said it was a battle that the NHL wasn't winning.

"Every time you take down 10 or 15 sites, another 100 or 200 crop up," told the TSN Hockey website. "It's whack-a-mole. Domains cost $5 or $10 to register. The counterfeiters are so far ahead of the game."

In the lead-up to the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil, a staggering seven million fake items – including team shirts – were seized by Chinese customs officials. Some of the fake shirts were available from Chinese-based websites for as low as $8, plus shipping.

China-based website Alibaba revealed last year that its own investigations into counterfeit gear had resulted in the arrests of 1606 people in 2017; with the fraud cases relating to $995m of fake products.

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