Video game giant Electronic Arts, the developer of EA Sports has reacted to the allegation made by AC Milan striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic concerning the use of his name and face without his consent. This is coming over the recent release of FIFA 21.
Ibrahimović called out the global soccer icon this week, questioning them for using his likeness in EA Sports’ wildly popular FIFA game. EA Sport released FIFA 21 on October 5 and Ibrahimovic is one of the major players in the game due to his impressive form last season after joining the Rossoneri on loan last January.
“Who gave FIFA EA Sport permission to use my name and face? @FIFPro? 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 maneuver,” he tweeted to his seven million Twitter followers.
Who gave FIFA EA Sport permission to use my name and face? @FIFPro? 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.— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 23, 2020
And for sure I never allowed @FIFAcom or Fifpro to make money using me
In backing his call, Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale, who is on loan from Real Madrid, supported with the hashtag #TimeToInvestigate.
As part of the development, Ibrahimović’s agent Mino Raiola, who is one of the most powerful people in the sport, also in an interview with the U.K.’s Telegraph said that roughly 300 players were considering legal action over EA’s use of their likenesses.
“The system is wrong, and that is a fight that Zlatan wants to take for all players,” said Raiola.
FIFPro will reply Ibrahimovic – EA Sports
In a statement provided by Electronic Arts to Forbes in the escalating feud, the developer said FIFPro has said it is their issue. The players body is therefore expected to react to Ibrahimovic’s call for investigation.
Since the Milan striker has said he is not a member of the association, every football stakeholders await their response.
But Ibrahimovic has been featured in the game for years and even given awards to that effect.
“The licensing arguments being played out in social media for effect are not an issue for EA or EA Sports. This is between FIFPro, the players within their association, and their representatives. FIFPro has told us this is their issue, and they’re handling it—we expect a statement to that effect imminently,” an EA spokesperson said.
On the comment made by Raola over the incident, EA stated that it is the battle between football agents and FIFPro.
“This isn’t our fight. This isn’t about EA Sports or video games, players or fans. It’s a battle between football agents and FIFPro. Mino Raiola is a respected player representative who we have partnered with for many years, including this year when our relationship ensured his client Erling Haaland would be part of our FIFA 21 marketing campaign.
“We have also enjoyed a great working relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has appeared in every FIFA since 2002 and regularly received awards as part of our FUT experience.”
The video game company also has a close relationship with Bale. It was gathered that Bale’s Esports company, Eleven, uses the EA FIFA game as a key platform for his professional esports athletes. Recently, Bale and Eleven were featured in a trailer for the launch of the FIFA 21 Global Series.
How EA Sports gets the power to use players’ likenesses
EA has not applied the strategy of negotiating the rights of every player at an individual level, as it deemed it an unviable strategy. So, they make use of FIFA and EA Sports to secure the rights, leaving the players and their agents aside.
In a situation where a player withdraws from this collective approach to rights granting, it likely results in the inclusion of generic athletes or avatars in video games. For instance, Randall Cunningham and Jim Kelly opted out of the NFL union’s licensing agreement in the early 1990s, and Barry Bonds did the same in baseball, leading to MLB ’06: The Show featuring a San Francisco outfielder named “Reggie Stocker.”
EA Sports spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to license content for its games yearly. So, navigating the use of likenesses in video games is incredibly complex.
So, they acquire the bulk of the licensed content through league licenses, which typically include club and player rights.
But in a situation where the league for that country doesn’t have collective rights, EA undertakes individual club deals. For instance AC Milan signed a franchise agreement with AC Milan recently.
EA then go for FIFpro rights only for some national teams and in a few territories where neither of the above applies.