The fight against counterfeit products and the creation of an adequate framework for the digital transformation in Europe will be among the main priorities for the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi) following the appointment of a new president, Neil Narriman, during the organization's annual general assembly in Brussels last week.

Counterfeiting is costing the European sporting goods industry an estimated €300 million each year, according to Fesi. In other words, one out of every 20 sports products sold in the EU is fake, and many of them are available on the internet.

Narriman's other stated priorities for Fesi's lobbying action in Brussels are the promotion of free, fair and sustainable trade between the European Union and its key trading partners as well as the acceleration of circularity principles in the sporting goods sector.

Narriman, 47, has been working for Puma since 2006, and he has been the brand's general counsel for intellectual property since 2012. He also served as vice president of Fesi and chair of its IPR task force for several years. As president of Fesi for the next three years, Narriman will take the place of another lawyer and former executive of Puma, Frank A. Dassler, who joined Adidas in 2004 and served as its general counsel until early last year.

Dassler, the third-generation heir of the family that founded Adidas and Puma, was elected president of Fesi in 2010 and then again in 2017. In between, he served as president of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI).

Under Dassler, Fesi has modernized its structure and participated in the definition of the free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam, which could save import duties of up to €500 million a year for Fesi's members. In an interview, he proposed that Fesi should also revise the European nomenclature for sports products – an issue that is also being debated in the U.S. at this time – simplify and harmonize labelling requirements and strengthen the European Week of Sport, held annually in September to help foster sports participation.

The lack of physical activity is a global problem, as highlighted in a recent study released by the World Health Organization (see the related story in the issue). Fesi and WFSGI have just announced a memorandum of understanding with the International Ski Federation (FIS) to work together for the promotion of youth participation in snow sports.

Fesi's conference on digitalization

Fesi's general assembly and its election of a new president took place just before yet another conference on digitalization, organized this time by Fesi in Brussels. Gerrit de Graaf, director of DG Connect, the European Commission's project for a digital single market, said at the conference that the EU should invest more and faster in artificial intelligence, supercomputers, internet networks and other digital infrastructures to compete with the U.S. and China.

He made his speech just before the Chinese government indicated its intention to favor the development of domestic digital operations, banning more U.S. multinationals from the country after Facebook and Google. However, de Graaf stated that digital technologies should be developed for the benefit of the people rather than individual corporations. The prevention of online sales of counterfeits should be part of the program, according to Fesi officials.

The new European Commission, headed up by Ursula von der Leyen, is planning to enforce a new Digital Services Act by the end of 2020 to curb illegal online content. By that time, new rules will be laid out to stop unjustified geo-blocking and to harmonize VAT rules for online sales of goods and services.

Other speakers at the conference commented on the advantages of omni-channel retailing for brands and retailers in terms of agility and customer engagement. Vijay Taiwar, who became executive vice present and chief executive of Foot Locker EMEA earlier this year, noted that younger consumers are using more and more digital devices for their shopping. Generation Y is comfortable with the simultaneous use of three devices (TV, mobile phone and laptop), while Gen Z is upgrading to five devices.

Foot Locker is targeting mainly consumers aged 12 to 24, who want to invest in purposeful experiences. The U.S.-based sporting goods retailer, which is an active member of Fesi, would like them to make sport a daily habit.