"It's not the salary that's a problem; it's just the image rights that needed a little perking.” - David Beckham 2002.

Gone are the days when football was only of relevance on the pitch, now what goes on outside the pitch is also of huge importance, in fact what goes on outside the pitch now influences what happens on the pitch. Also, football has now largely been commercialized, it is now a huge money making business, not only for the football players themselves, but also clubs, coaches and even third parties like their agents, sponsors and kit companies. In essence, football has gradually evolved over the years

Image Rights’ are the proprietary rights that an individual has in the image of himself or herself, and the other unique characteristics associated with their personality (such as their signature). Every person has a right to own, control and administer his or her own image. They are the equivalents of trademark protection for a logo, or copyright for a work of art. Image rights is one of the big commercial interests in football. Image rights relate to the commercial exploitation of an individual’s name, likeness and image as well as characteristics that are inextricably linked to an individual’s personality such as his autograph, signature, nickname, image, name, voice, signature, and all other characteristics unique to the player. The iconic 1970s English soccer player, Kevin Keegan was the first sports personality to enter actively into what was known at the time as a “face contract” for what were essentially his image rights. Image rights provide their holders protection against unauthorised persons claiming ownership or endorsement by the holder without their permission. Persons who are constantly highlighted by the media (such as athletes, actors, and musicians, for example) can derive huge financial benefits from intelligent leveraging of these rights. The nature of image rights is such that only the most famous players in the world can reasonably use them as a large source of income. For this tier of players, the wages they earn from a club can be substantially less than the money they make from commercial sources. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo’s wages annually are in the range of €17 million, while his income from commercial earnings is estimated to be around €23 million annually.

The more popular the player, the greater the value of their image rights and therefore a focal point of contract negotiations, image rights deals enable the player to exploit that likeness for commercial value, i.e. through sponsorship and endorsement activities. Professional football players are increasingly becoming a brand in their own right as the game becomes a more prominent player in the entertainment field. Former Real Madrid C.F. forward now Juventus forward, Cristiano Ronaldo remarked in 2015 that the assignment of his image rights to a Hong Kong company called Mint Media would ‘take the Cristiano Ronaldo brand to the next level, especially in Asia.’

The value of a player’s image rights can make him highly desirable and lucrative for a football club as shown by a press statement issued by Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG) in which they describe the world’s most expensive player, Neymar Jr, as ‘widely considered to be an icon in world football.’ The aspirational Ligue 1 football club seeks to utilise Neymar JR’s talents and ‘immense popularity around the world’ to elevate the global brand value of PSG which serves the twin aims of diversifying income streams by gaining access to new markets – and attracting the most talented players. This creates the possibility for PSG to ascend new heights and join the ranks of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid who are often cited as the football clubs it was a childhood dream to play in their starting XI.

The FA Premier League was formed in 1992, in part to capitalise on the perceived commercial value of English football both domestically and through global television markets. Over the next few years a number of the top footballers from around the world moved to England to play in the Premier League. As these players started to move to the UK, the standard of football increased, as did the global appeal of the English game. As top international players started to move to the Premier League in the 1990’s, the use of image-rights contracts became increasingly popular. Such agreements allowed clubs to separate the payment of players for playing football under their employment agreements, from payments to a player’s image rights company for the use of the player’s image. The image rights payments were not treated as salary but payments to the company for services provided, therefore saving income tax for the player, and National Insurance for both the player and the club.

As players become more popular and valuable due to their performances on the pitch, so do their commercial value off the pitch. Some clubs do consider the commercial value of players when they seek to buy them. Real Madrid estimated that David Beckham’s total contract value over his four year deal was recouped in the first six months he spent in Madrid on shirt sales alone. During his four years in Madrid, merchandising profits increased by a staggering 137%. Also, when Manchester United signed Zlatan Ibrahimovich in 2016, it was rumoured that it was the proceeds of his shirt sales that was used to fund the transfer of Paul Pogba, which was a whooping £89m, a world record as at that time.

Football has come a really long way, it is a huge source of revenue for all parties involved. Players also realizing their own value have moved to secure their image rights and brand, e.g Cristiano Ronaldo with the CR7, Jesse Lingard with JLingz. In seeking to protect their image rights, some players set up an image rights company which is saddled with the responsibility of handling the player's image rights. Thus, once the company is established and the rights transferred, then on any future transfer, if the club wants access to the individual’s image for commercial activities, then the club will separately need to negotiate a deal with the image rights company. For instance, Brazil forward, Neymar Jr; assigned his image rights to a Brazilian company called IMT Talent in 2012.

Image rights as can be seen is a huge source of income for footballers, it sometimes even generate more than their salaries, it all depends on the value of the particular footballer.

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Última modificação 5 meses atrás Última modificação em 09/07/2021 05:56:12

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