Project Red Card: UK Soccer Players to Sue Data Gatherers, Sports Books for ‘Royalties’

Posted on: July 28, 2020, 04:12h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2020, 10:03h.

Hundreds of current and former soccer players from the English Premier League, the English Football League, National League, and Scottish Premiership plan to sue bookmakers and data gatherers in a bid to gain royalties for the use of their personal statistics.

Project Red Card
Former soccer manager Russell Slade believes bookmakers and data companies owe soccer players big money. (Image: Tom Sandberg)

More than 400 players have already signed up to “Project Red Card,” which hopes to establish that players legally “own” their data and should get paid for it, reports the sports website The Athletic. The initiative is spearheaded by Russell Slade, a former EFL manager who has, over the years, been the boss at Brighton and Hove Albion, Cardiff City, Coventry City, and most recently, sixth-tier team Hereford FC.

Slade has co-founded the Global Sports Data and Technology Group, which is primarily offering “smart contracts” for professional players using blockchain. But it’s also behind Project Red Card. The initiative believes it can recover royalties stretching back six years — which is the statute of limitations.

‘Sacrifice and Fortune’

If successful, this would have huge ramifications for soccer in the UK and around the world, as well as for the betting and data-gathering industries, with compensation possibly running into hundreds of millions.

Data on individual players has been commodified for use by bookmakers since the 1990s. Today, it’s big business, especially because in-play betting has become, by far, the preferred mode of gambling on soccer in the UK market.

But Slade told The Athletic that athletes are missing out, particularly those who did not draw elite salaries during their careers.

A small number of players have long, successful club and international careers. Conversely, there are many careers cut short through injury and consistency of performance,” continued Slade.

“Astonishingly, the average duration of a player’s career is around just eight years,” he continued. “A long career lasting double that time still only takes a player to the age of 34, 35,” he added.

Only a privileged few can stay in the game, Slade explains, and because of that, there’s an uneven spread of money among players.

Can’t Copyright Fact?

Slade believes his legal crusade will be successful in an age when an individual’s data and privacy are becoming increasingly protected by law.

But others aren’t so sure, pointing out that an important principle of intellectual property law is that you cannot copyright a fact.

Yahoo! Money has suggested that the lawsuit might end with a similar result to the case between Major League Baseball’s Player Association and CDM Fantasy Sports in 2006, even though it would be played out under a different legal system.

MLB sued the fantasy sports site because it used baseball players’ names and stats without license. But a federal judge ruled that the stats were “facts” and therefore in the public domain.