EA Sports dismisses Ibrahimovic and Bale criticisms about FIFA 21's right to use player likenesses

David Beckham as a FIFA 21 legend.
(Image credit: EA Sports)

We reported yesterday on an emerging brouhaha involving how much money David Beckham was going to earn from the FIFA series over the next few years. The figure reported by the UK's Daily Mirror was £40 million over three years but, a few hours after publication, EA Sports provided us with the following statement:

"We've seen the reports on the terms of our deal to bring David Beckham back into our EA SPORTS FIFA game. We don't disclose specific details, but we can be definitive that the figures being reported are being completely sensationalized and are in no way accurate."

The exact sums involved are not why this story gathered momentum, however, but the response of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which was swiftly followed-up by Gareth Bale. Basically both of them had a moan about the fact their likenesses are in the game, and they don't have this kind of deal.

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EA Sports has now given us another statement on the specifics of licensing and the FIFA series. 

“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 3rd 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 licenses 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."

The statement references AC Milan and Spurs because they're the current clubs for Ibrahimovic and Bale, respectively.

The background to this spat is an ongoing battle between certain football agents and FIFPro, the body supposed to represent the interests of footballers. Ibrahimovic's representation was quick to weigh in after the footballer's tweet, and what this essentially comes down to is high-profile players wanting to negotiate separate image rights, and trying to drag the FIFA series into the argument.

Gareth Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, told the Guardian that legal action was “something that is being looked into. 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.”

It does look like EA Sports was blindsided by this, and certain interests are trying to manipulate a conversation around the series to an obvious end. EA on one side, a bunch of multi-millionaire footballers and agents on the other. Fetch me the tiniest violin in the world.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."