Image rights of the Blues: “Football will become one of the most individualized sports”

Image rights of the Blues Football will become one of

“Football has changed”. In June 2022, Kylian Mbappé, questioned on the question of the management of his image and on sponsorship, again warned that he had to be counted on to make his voice heard on the question of collective image rights. After the PSG striker’s new refusal to participate in a marketing operation, the French Football Federation (FFF) announced on the evening of Monday, September 19 its wish to “revise as soon as possible” the agreement on the rights in the image linking it to the Blues.

Following a first quarrel in March over the use of the image of internationals, a convention that Kylian Mbappé and his advisers wish to modify, the two parties had met, without however reaching an agreement. By declaring Monday in The Team that “nothing will change between now and the World Cup”, the president of the FFF, Noël Le Graët, rekindled the fuse. In the process, Kylian Mbappé decided not to take part in the photo session scheduled for Tuesday.

The boycott threat quickly bore fruit: the federation announced that it was committed to “working on the outlines of a new agreement which will enable it to ensure its interests while taking into consideration the legitimate concerns and convictions expressed unanimously by its players”. Kylian Mbappe therefore participated well this Tuesday in the marketing operations during the Blues internship. With L’Express, Pierre Rondeau, sports economist, professor at the Sports Management School and co-author of the book Grand Footoir (Solar Editions), analyzes this convention drawn up in 2010 and explains why the 23-year-old striker wants to be able to keep the choice of brands with which his image is associated.

L’Express: What does this collective image rights agreement between the French football team and the FFF consist of?

Pierre Rondeau: The current agreement was renegotiated in 2010, after the episode of Knysna during the World Cup in South Africa. The idea at the time was to say that playing for the Blues was an honor and that the Blues had to comply with the wishes of the French team and the FFF insofar as professional football had been messed up by this episode. It was necessary to show that professional football was going to support amateur football and women’s football through greater redistribution, for example by contributing to the fund for amateur football.

The FFF has so far taken care of the negotiation and application of these contracts on the assumption that the endorsement of the players of the France team was automatic and that they therefore had no say in the matter. say. In other words, a selection automatically entailed the transfer of all the image rights of the selected player. The French team could thus sign on behalf of its players partnerships and sponsorship contracts with brands in exchange for colossal sums. It should be noted that the exploitation of the image begins from the first selection and still lasts up to 5 years after the professional retirement of a player. The FFF’s budget for the 2020-2021 season is 266 million in total, of which 41.6% is revenue thanks to the sponsorship of partners. It is therefore a significant financial return.

Last March, Kylian Mbappé questioned this process and decided to no longer be associated with certain brands that he considers not ethical enough in his eyes, in fast food and sports betting. (Editor’s note: because these brands do not promote healthy eating in adolescence and because they promote gambling addiction by targeting young people from working-class neighborhoods, two causes that are close to his heart). With his boycott threat, and thanks to his notoriety, he was able to change things. The French team and the FFF will thus quickly sign an agreement granting players the right to inspect the choice of brands. It should be remembered that there are several other agreements, for example between a player and his club – the player gives up his image to the club which will negotiate his visibility for sponsorship contracts and commercial contracts – or even a collective agreement between the union players and the player.

So the current agreement absolutely had to be changed?

We can add nuances. Because beyond the ethical question, there is that of the big money. According to the newspaper The Team, in the new collective agreement, the players would henceforth have a right of scrutiny over the choice of brands and, beyond the ethical question, there would be a prior check to find out whether these prospective brands do not oppose the brands directly linked to the player in his individual contract. For example, if a contract has been signed by a player with McDonald’s, would it be welcome for the French team to sign a contract with KFC?

Moreover, from a strictly accounting point of view, with these new safeguards, there is a risk in the future of a discount on a sponsorship contract. Indeed, if the players refuse to associate their images with sports betting or fast food sites, for example for ethical or religious reasons, we then take the risk of reducing the offers of partnership with the French team, then to reduce the valuation of sponsorship contracts and therefore the discount on the FFF budget and, ultimatelyas a trickle-down effect, this could result in a reduction in the shares allocated to amateur and women’s football.

In the end, is it therefore a real reversal that takes place?

This is not a revolution, but a confirmation of the strengthening of the individualization of football, a phenomenon that has already been observable for years: football 2.0 which coexists with social networks. In my opinion, the first who confirmed this phenomenon of taking control of his image before the club and the national team was David Beckham, at the dawn of the 2000s. This phenomenon intensified with social networks: now , a player can go through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter to impose his image and his visibility, before going through the media and his club.

It can also be recalled that Zlatan Ibrahimovic opposed the transfer of player rights to Panini stickers, thus refusing to transfer the rights to his image. Recently, the Swedish star also rebelled against the EA Sports brand which would use his image for the game FIFA with impunity without receiving in return, according to him, remuneration commensurate with his notoriety.

The controversy between Kylian Mbappé and the FFF therefore confirms a phenomenon that has been observed for twenty years and which risks ultimately upsetting the ecosystem of football and making this collective sport one of the most individualized sports. . It is clear that the image of the footballer is today as important as his sporting talent. A high-level player is represented sportingly, in the media and must show how honest a citizen he is.

How does the transfer of these collective image rights work in other sports?

The players of the French rugby team must also cede their image rights to the federation, so it’s a bit like football. However, there is a clause in this agreement stipulating that brands are prohibited from highlighting a particular player, for example in advertisements: at least between three and five players are required. It is therefore a question of preventing a particular player from being starred.