Sep 7, 2018

Showing image rights the red card

When we think of image rights disputes we often think of a super-rich celebrity (often an athlete) being prevented from fully exploiting their own likeness due to a conflicting contract from years past. We do not think of the dispute giving the Welsh men's football team a helping hand in qualifying for Euro 2020. That, however, is what is about to happen.

Currently the Danish Football Association is in a significant image rights disputes with its senior national team's male players. The association is seeking flexible commercial rules allowing it to exploit the images of the team's players in order to generate higher revenues to fund grassroots football in the country. A noble aim, perhaps, but one that is a contractual impossibility for some players who have their own image rights contracts already.

The players have rejected the deal offered by the association as it would restrict their abilities to strike individual deals and exploit their own fame commercially. As the old commercial deal expired on 31 July, and no new deal has been reached, the players are refusing to play for the national team.

On Wednesday that meant that a team made up of amateurs and lower league footballers (including a full-time student, a YouTube star, a salesman, and some futsal players) played in a 3-0 friendly defeat by Slovakia. That seems a very respectable scoreline for a bunch of amateurs who have never played together before. That, however, was a friendly match.

Where this commercial rights issue is likely to cause international concern (at least amongst Wales' competitors) is that the new Nations League is a UEFA competition that precedes Euro 2020, and Denmark's match against Wales is likely to feature a similar lineup.

If Wales thrash an amateur Denmark team, but Denmark then sort out the commercial rights issue and field a stronger team against other opposition, will those other countries not given such an easy right have cause to complain?

It is an unusual situation: image rights disputes rarely impact unassociated third parties. We will be keeping an eye on how this dispute plays out, and how international football communities react.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or


in: EU/International, Legal News

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