Report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale, More to Object to FIFA 21 Likenesses

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2020

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and AC Milan, at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse via AP)
Alessandro Garofalo/Associated Press

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale are among the notable players who are speaking out against the use of their likenesses in the FIFA video game series.

Ibrahimovic took to Twitter on Monday to say he never knowingly agreed to allow FIFA or EA Sports to make money off of his likeness.

Zlatan Ibrahimović @Ibra_official

Somebody is making profit on my name and face without any agreement all these years. Time to investigate

Bale, in a response to Ibrahimovic's thread, called for an investigation into how the company is using his likeness as well.

Gareth Bale @GarethBale11

.@Ibra_official Interesting... what is @FIFPro? 🤔 #TimeToInvestigate

Both players have been part of EA Sports' flagship soccer series for several years. The Athletic reported a "growing" number of players believe their likenesses are being used without "proper consent."

An EA Sports spokesperson sent Bleacher Report the following response: 

“EA SPORTS FIFA is the world’s leading football video game, and to create an authentic experience year after year we work with numerous leagues, teams and individual talent to secure the rights of player likeness to include in our game. One of those is a long-standing relationship with the global representative of professional football players, FIFPro, who partner with a number of licensors to negotiate deals that benefit the players and their unions.”

EA Sports has a licensing deal with FIFPro, the international soccer player's union. The deal runs similarly to how EA retains likeness rights to players in the NFL, NBA and other sports for video games. EA negotiates with the union, which then provides a stipend to players who are in the game.

If a player is not in FIFPro, likeness rights are then held by the player, club or international team. Given the sheer scope of the FIFA game series and the number of federations and leagues around the sport, there are likely numerous separate licensing agreements EA has in place to obtain the likeness of every top player.

EA Sports said Ibrahimovic's rights were obtained through a deal with his club, AC Milan. Bale, who plays for the Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur, is subject to the licensing agreement between EA and the EPL. It does not appear either player has any legal standing to protest his likeness being included.