13/07/2016

And he said yes.

Do players need the law to protect them from the consequences of poor performance on the pitch or the skills of a gifted player?

An interesting case seems to answer the question.

Unlike the UK, Spain offers its citizens protection under the constitution against the use of a person’s image, which is considered damaging to that person’s honour.

It’s 1996 and you’re a professional footballer with Deportivo Compostela facing the talents of Barcelona’s Ronaldo (the Brazilian version!) at the top of his game. You’re mesmerised by his ball skills, he passes you with ease, beats six of your teammates and scores.

To make matters worse it’s shown again and again on TV with the above strapline as part of an advert for Nike.

The seven embarrassed players took Nike to court in 1998 claiming that Nike had unlawfully used their images and had injured their honour. For some reason the goalkeeper did not take action, read into that what you will!

The wheels of justice in Spain turn very slowly, but eventually, the court delivered its judgement.

Nike argued that they had used the images lawfully and succeeded.

La Liga had legitimately licensed the right to Nike to reproduce excerpts from La Liga matches involving their sponsored player Ronaldo, including his performances for Barcelona, which they had done with his consent, for the purpose of admiring his skills for the promotion of its products.

As for damage to their honour, the court made a clear distinction between the moral and commercial element of the protection afforded by the constitution. It said that the moral aspects were intended to cover privacy and dignity in private life which must be distinguished from commercial exploitation of a person’s image.

By signing professional contracts with their club the players’ had assigned their image rights to La Liga for commercial purposes and on this basis they could not complain as there had been no breach of contract in further licensing the rights to Nike.

A telling comment from the court summed up the moral angle; “being beaten by another player who dribbles past you is considered to be part of the game of football and therefore broadcasting such images does not entail moral damage”

A sensible decision you might think.

For further information please contact Tim Bailey at Beswicks Sports on 01782 205000 or tim.bailey@beswicks.com