Is EA SPORTS FC another potential bone of contention in the FIFA vs UEFA licensing battle?

The announcement of EA SPORTS FC has shown once again that the toughest competition in football is not the race for the Premier League title, but the licensing battle between UEFA, FIFA and the top leagues across Europe.

Maybe it’s just because my team is having a terrible season, but it really feels like football is melting away.

The rush of football games at the end of the year will be strange this year.

I’m not a Barcelona fan and I’ve only been to Camp Nou once, but Lionel Messi found it pretty hard to move to Paris Saint-Germain. It just felt like another victory for the corporatization of football, with the sticky tribal fantasy of a player’s unbreakable bond to their beloved club summarily crushed in a deal that left no one happy but the kit printers at Nike.

Not the casual fans who have lost their idealized image of one of the greatest players of all time, not the PSG fans who came to boo and whistle at every touch and certainly not the Spanish league where Messi played, La League, which had now lost two of its most marketable players in their year-long feud with Paris Saint-Germain. The first was when PSG triggered the league-mandated €222m release clause in Neymar’s contract, which was supposed to be an absurd, astronomical sum that nobody should really pay.

Lesser-known players mean less international TV interest and therefore less revenue and less successful competition, with even more ground lost to richer teams.

In gaming, we’ve seen the power of strong branding and how devastating not having it can be. You just have to look at Pro Evolution Soccer, or should I say eFootball, which for years “had the better gameplay” but slowly became less and less relevant because it didn’t have the new West Ham kit every year.

Lower sales translated into seemingly lower investments, until we were left with the free-to-play melt sludge that is eFootball 2022 – the kind of non-branded football game you’d buy for £4 from Blockbuster on the PS1. At least it now technically costs less.

what are you cheering about

Serie A in FIFA 22 is also rubbish, even if only a handful of the best teams are replaced with generic ones.

Europe’s biggest teams trying to keep up with the spending power of state-backed clubs like PSG and Manchester City, and the Premier League in general – which is considered the strongest league in the world and therefore receives the most TV money – have led to all sorts Hijinx who rocked the football establishment.

To keep up, teams like Juventus in Italy and Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain have to go all-in in the Champions League, currently Europe’s premier competition and the most lucrative revenue generator for most teams. The Champions League is governed by UEFA, European football’s governing body, but they are under constant pressure to give top clubs guaranteed access and a bigger slice of the revenue pie.

This led, in part, to the loathed but currently shelved European Super League, a closed-shop competition intended to replace the UEFA Champions League but without UEFA involvement, where historically great teams would face off without qualifying and without the threat of relegation.


Could UEFA and FIFA ever embrace?

To stave off the challenge, UEFA sought support from FIFA, the world football governing body responsible for the World Cup, but didn’t get much, at least initially. To complicate matters further, FIFA and UEFA also disagree on many things.

Basically, the World Cup is FIFA’s biggest cash generator, but that only happens every 4 years. FIFA therefore wants to shorten the cycle to every few years, but that would disrupt the EURO, the UEFA Nations League and pose all sorts of other problems – hence the friction.

With all these warring factions, it’s incredibly interesting that EA is dropping the FIFA license to create their own EA SPORTS FC. For almost 30 years, FIFA has been the epitome of football gaming and the loss of that brand awareness will surely hurt sales.

The FIFA games are hugely relevant to the zeitgeist of football and a big part of how younger people interact with football as watching live matches has become more difficult and expensive.

However, EA has reportedly been unhappy with the cost of doing business with FIFA for years, and it seems like the controversial $250 million a year they were supposed to be raising late last year was the bullion that gave the cash cow its backbone broke .


EA SPORTS FC will receive the names, jerseys and other rights directly

In the EA SPORTS FC announcement, EA tightened its “300+ Licensed Partners” and more than hinted that this new game would still have the same realistic polish as current FIFA games. They went on to indicate that their “unique licensing portfolio” which includes deals with international players’ union FIFPRO, many top leagues and kit manufacturers would “still be around” after FIFA. At least that’s the names, competitions and kits sorted.

While not confirmed in this post, what stands out is that one of the biggest additions EA has made in recent years is a fully licensed Champions League and Europa League. How odd it would be, then, if UEFA stepped in to eat FIFA’s lunch by taking a leading role in one of its most culturally relevant touchstones every day with fans.

This move also seems to bring even more power to certain clubs, leagues and even players who have become surly at matches because of their similarities and characteristics.

On the FIFA side, it’s highly likely that their decision to give their name to other game developers to produce various products angered EA. What would they pay the alleged $250 million for if not even the exclusive right to make FIFA games?

While it’s easy to read EA SPORTS FC as just an altercation between EA and FIFA, it feeds into the broader and escalating brand battle across football as various interested parties scramble to squeeze as much cash as possible.


EA knows how to monetize their games. Will FIFA?

EA is one of the best in this regard, with Ultimate Team earning them more than $1.6 billion in FIFA, Madden, and NHL — more than double the earnings of even the biggest soccer teams.

And as crypto exchanges, currency creators, and NFT projects continue to invest more heavily in games and soccer, it seems more than likely that EA could collaborate on their new platform in that department as well, be it socios, as many teams already have, or one other companies.

You never know; Another publisher could jump at the opportunity to partner with FIFA and challenge EA’s supremacy with a fresh and exciting soccer game – FIFA 2K24 maybe? But then again, if it doesn’t have the right Crystal Palace away kit, it’s not worth playing, is it? Is EA SPORTS FC another potential bone of contention in the FIFA vs UEFA licensing battle?

Fry Electronics Team

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