There appears to be an impending situation, possibly leading to litigation, regarding the likenesses of certain FIFA players in EA's FIFA series of video games.
A tweet on Monday from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who plays for AC Milan, indicated he was previously unaware of his likeness appearing in the video game.
"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 (sic). And for sure I never allowed @FIFAcom or Fifpro to make money using me." A subsequent tweet read, "Somebody is making profit on my name and face without any agreement all these years. Time to investigate." FIFPro is a union representing FIFA players.
This caused at least one other player, Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur, to respond, "Interesting... what is FIFPro? #TimeToInvestigate" Agents for Ibrahimovic and Bale both commented, with Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett going on record with The Guardian, saying, "At the moment, the players don't get paid. 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."
EA Sports responded to the complaints with a prepared statement:
We are aware of discussions around licensing of players in EA Sports FIFA. The current situation being played out on social media is an attempt to draw FIFA 21 into a dispute between a number of third parties and has little to do with EA Sports. To be very clear, we have contractual rights to include the likeness of all players currently in our game. As already stated, we acquire these licences directly from leagues, teams, and individual players. In addition, we work with FIFPro to ensure we can include as many players as we can to create the most authentic game. In these instances, our rights to player likenesses are granted through our club agreement with AC Milan and our long-standing exclusive partnership with the Premier League, which includes all players for Tottenham Hotspur.
Food For Thought
For all the flak EA is taking over loot boxes related to FIFA and other sports games, this sudden spurt of high dudgeon by players and agents seems unusually convenient. Considering Ibrahimovic was photographed in 2017 holding a physical copy of his Ultimate Team card from FIFA 17, it strains credulity that he would be unaware his likeness was being used in the past, or that he would be unaware of deals such as EA Sports picking up rights to AC Milan marks and player likenesses after the club decided not to renew their deal with Konami in regards to the Pro Evolution Soccer series.