Soccer Superstars Unaware How FIFA Licensing Works

Soccer Superstars Unaware How FIFA Licensing Works
Photo: Alessandro Sabattini, Getty Images

Earlier today, Sweden’s undying demigod Zlatan Ibrahimović, perhaps for the first time ever, realised that his likeness was being used in video games without his explicit permission. And didn’t like it.

His sudden realisation came of course on Twitter, where Zlatan wondered aloud who had actually given EA Sports permission to use his likeness in the FIFA series, and why he wasn’t being paid for it:

Among the countless brain-dead replies from people who don’t know the difference between FIFA (he world governing body for the sport, and also the name of a major video games series) and FIFPro (a global alliance of player associations) was one from fellow international star Gareth Bale, who had a similar question:

It’s long been known that both FIFA and rivals PES obtain a licence every year from FIFPro, who in turn say this gives the publishers access to the faces and names of tens of thousands of players from around the world (the teams and leagues in those games, on the other hand, have to be negotiated separately).

In Zlatan’s case particularly, EA Sports even signed a specific deal with his club, AC Milan back in August that granted them access to Milan’s badge, kits, stadium and, yes, its players as well.

Still, you can’t blame the players for reacting like this! FIFPro, individual player associations, clubs and agents could all have done a better job of explaining this and educating the players before it ever got to the point they were questioning this publicly.

But then, that’s par for the course (sorry, Gareth) in the money-soaked landscape of professional European football, where marketing arrangements, licensing deals and other payments are often as difficult to pin down as they are lucrative. It’s a sport awash in corruption and overblown agent fees, and if two stars want to poke some holes in that and see what’s up — even if they’re ultimately proven wrong — then go for it lads.


  • Legally, it’s never too late to ask that question. I hope the players kick off and fleece EA. Even if it was 100% legit, there is nothing to stop you asking for a bigger cut.

    • Except that they don’t get a cut. The deal is with the club and FIFPro, both of whom almost certainly have the player’s (all players’) signature on a document granting them the right to use the player’s image.

      I’m not going to cry when overpaid meatheads miss out on a few euros.

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