Several of the world’s most recognisable players including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale have questioned the right of football’s governing body and Fifpro to sell their likenesses for use in a best-selling video game. It could lead to legal action being taken on their behalf.
Fifa 21 – the 28th edition of a series estimated to have sold more than 300 million copies – was released in October featuring Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé as its cover star and featuring more than 7,000 players, 700 teams, 90 stadiums and 30 leagues.
The players’ union Fifpro has a mandate to sell name and likeness rights on behalf of every player from a member nation, although Premier League clubs sell all their video game licensing rights collectively.
It is understood that a number of high-profile players have instructed their representatives to look into whether they are entitled to some of the proceeds made from using their likeness on the game given that most contracts include lucrative image right deals.
On Monday Ibrahimovic raised the issue on Twitter, with the 39-year-old Milan forward hinting at potential legal action.
“Who gave FIFA EA Sport permission to use my name and face? @FIFPro?” he wrote. “I’m not aware to be a member of FIFPro and if I am I was put there without any real knowledge through some weird manouver. And for sure I never allowed @FIFAcom or FIFPro to make money using me. Somebody is making profit on my name and face without any agreement all these years. Time to investigate.”
Bale, on loan at Tottenham from Real Madrid, replied to his tweet, writing: “Interesting, what is FIFPro? #TimeToInvestigate”, before Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola added: “Hope we get the answer to our letters now @Ibra_official.”
Fifpro has been approached for comment. Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, said that potential legal action was “something that is being looked into”.
“At the moment, the players don’t get paid,” he said. “Our big gripe is that Fifa are coming out with lots of rules and regulations saying that they are looking after the best interests of players but obviously they don’t.”
This month Fifa announced plans to introduce regulations on agents next year that would limit the ability of individuals to represent more than one party in a transfer and cap commission to a one-off sum equal to 3% of a player’s annual salary or 10% of the transfer fee to a selling club.
EA Sports, which makes Fifa 21, said in a statement to Dutch website nu.nl that the use of Ibrahimovic’s likeness stems from a deal with Milan. “That’s why we have a long-standing relationship with FIFPro. The association works with a number of licensors and negotiates agreements that will benefit both players and unions.”