If we are to believe the testimonies collected by the American daily, the negotiations underway for at least two years around the renewal of the license contract would come up against a wall. So much so that a final break after the World Cup in Qatar 2022, at the end of the tenth and final year of the contract between the two parties, is not excluded; at least that’s what the latest press release from Cam Weber, EA Sports executive chairman and general manager, released a few days ago suggested. And as often at the time of renegotiating the rights related to the king sport that is football, it is the amounts demanded which are at the heart of the negotiations.
Also according to New York Times sources, FIFA is indeed seeking to obtain more than double what it currently receives from EA Sports – around $ 150 million per year. This would bring the payment to more than a billion dollars for a cycle of four years, modeled on that of the current organization of the World Cup. The sum at stake would not be the only reason for this deep disagreement: FIFA and Electronic Arts would not be able to agree on what are supposed to include the exclusive rights relating to the license. And making these disputes public is anything but trivial for an observer particularly close to the matter, none other than Peter Moore. “I don’t remember them ever issuing a statement saying we were in negotiations for a license renewal“, would have answered the former top manager of the company, before becoming general manager of Liverpool FC from 2017, detecting very clearly”a little signal“.
On the Electronic Arts side, the stranglehold on the virtual football niche in the absence of a real challenger would be enough to consider a name change. Those in charge undoubtedly estimate the commercial damage rather limited in the case of a franchise which multiplies moreover the agreements of license with the various clubs represented; the NY Times talks about 300 other contracts with other organizations, be they clubs, UEFA competitions or national leagues like Ligue 1. Insofar as FIFA’s license does not grant to EA Sports that the use of the organization’s name and logo, as well as the rights to the World Cup for special editions every four years, the American giant would not see the abandonment of the license of a so evil eye. It is no doubt no coincidence that the American publisher has communicated quite freely on the extension of the contract that binds it to FIFPRO, the organization which represents professional players on a global scale, for continue to use the image of athletes in particular.
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For its part, FIFA would prefer to limit EA’s exclusivity to the strict framework of a football game, with the likely aim of identifying new sources of income for the rights it would share with other contractors. EA Sports would rather continue its growth strategy by expanding the ecosystem in place within FIFA, exploring eSports tournaments or selling NFT. What happily complement the cash flow generated by the only Ultimate Team mode, which would have garnered nearly $ 1.2 billion in turnover just for last year, according to analyst Piers Harding Rolls quoted by the New York Times.
In the event of a break-up after more than twenty-five years of marriage, FIFA would deprive itself of a guaranteed windfall for the financing of its own projects, such as a new World Cup extended to clubs, or an appointment fixed every two years. But the counter-offensive would already be launched. To find new sources of income, FIFA officials investigated the possibility of selling licenses for video games and digital products that are not related to football. At the risk of jeopardizing the exclusivity for which EA Sports devotes a large part of its budget – a brand which has nevertheless largely benefited from the exposure of the American giant since 1993.
The decision is expected to be confirmed by the end of the year, but EA’s pundits have already opened several exit doors. The EA Sports FC trademark registration, registered with the European Union and the British authorities, is one of them.
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