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Is the FIFA and EA Sports Partnership in Trouble?

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By Dr. Brandon Spradley |

Esports continues to have a major impact in the overall landscape of sport. A major development in the industry is that FIFA and EA Sports are possibly planning to end its exclusive long-standing relationship. EA’s current licensing deal expires after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

EA Sports is a division of Electronic Arts that develops and publishes sports video games. Electronic Arts is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. EA develops and delivers games, content, and online services for Internet-connected consoles, mobile devices, and personal computers. EA has more than 450 million registered players around the world.

Some of the most popular EA sports video game series are the FIFA Series, Madden NFL Series, and NHL Series. This partnership is one of the longest and most profitable relationships in the sport industry.

FIFA released a statement that reads, “FIFA is bullish and excited about the future in gaming and esports for football, and it is clear that this needs to be a space that is occupied by more than one party controlling all rights. Technology and mobile companies are now actively competing to be associated with FIFA, its platforms, and global tournaments. Consequently, FIFA is engaging with various industry player, including developers, investors and analysts, to build out a long-term view of the gaming, esports, and interactive entertainment sector.”

Tariq Panja of the New York Times states “the core of the dispute is financial. FIFA is seeking more than double what it currently receives from EA Sports, according to people with knowledge of the talks, a figure that would increase its payout from the series to more than $1 billion for each four-year World Cup cycle. FIFA would prefer to limit EA’s exclusivity to the narrow parameters around use in a soccer game, most likely in an effort to seek new revenue streams for the rights it would retain. EA Sports, meanwhile, contends the company should be allowed to explore other ventures within its FIFA video game ecosystem, including highlights of actual games, arena video game tournaments and digital products.”

It will be interesting to see this development play out in the next few years.

Dr. Brandon Spradley is the Chair of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy.

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