One of the main selling points of a game like FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer is that you’re given a chance to take your favourite sportsball team to the top of the leagues and using the talents of very-real people to do so. That official layer of authenticity has always been a key selling point for fans, who delight in having access to thousands of players in every annual game.
Some footballers aren’t happy about this though, according to reporting by . Earlier in the week, AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic began querying why his likeness was being used in FIFA 21 since he wasn’t a member of FIFPro, a global union that handles image rights for affiliated footballers. Tootenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale also added his support to the issue, calling for an investigation.
That these queries are coming in after it was announced that football legend David Beckham will earn roughly £256,000 per week without even needing to kick a ball in his new multi-year deal with EA’s FIFA series as its next-gen face, are probably unrelated. Probably. According to The Athletic report more players will add their voices to the growing discontent around the use of their likenesses.
It’s a legal mess to jump into though, although there is some legal precedence that the disgruntled players can lean on, dating back to last year when EA forked out $6.5 million to 450 players who had an issue with how their likenesses were used in EA games from 2005-2014. On the other side of the coin, you have a publisher such as EA navigating numerous regional and national laws, as well as agreements with clubs and leagues to gain access to those likenesses. Premier League clubs in particular sell all of their video game licensing rights collectively, although Serie A is an exception to this rule.
Long story short? Ibrahimovic might need to renegotiate his contract and pay close attention to the fine print, as EA is likely to have learned a lesson from its last courtroom bruising and has made certain that its use of football player likenesses is legal.
Last Updated: November 25, 2020