French team: overhaul of the convention by the FFF, boycotts of Mbappé… Everything you need to understand about the controversy over collective image rights

The return of the French football team, Monday September 19 to Clairefontaine (Yvelines), was to say the least agitated. This last gathering before the World Cup in Qatar relegated the sportsman to the background, to see the image rights file reappear. Raised by tricolor star Kylian Mbappé, this subject, hitherto totally absent from the debates around the Blues, has become central for the Paris Saint-Germain striker.

His announced absence for a photo session organized on Tuesday with one of the partners of the French Football Federation prompted the latter to upset the order of its priorities and to “review as soon as possible” the convention that binds the FFF and the players of the national team. Between legal jargon and economic considerations, what is behind this fight about to be won by the center forward of the Blues?

Six months of tension and trial and error, a few hours for the outcome

As often, when Kylian Mbappé wants to accelerate, it is he who imposes the tempo. The image rights “case” took root on March 23, when the 2018 world champion decided not to take part in a day devoted to sponsors of the France team. The player wishes, through his boycott, to modify the management of the rights to the image of the Blues. The gesture tenses the federation for a while before calm returns to both camps. “This will be resolved very, very quickly. We are not going to create problems for nothing, we have a country to win“, claimed Mbappé on May 23, shortly after re-signing with Paris Saint-Germain.

A few months later, this Monday, September 19, 2022, the player will finally be right in his showdown with the FFF. The PSG star announces that he will not participate in a photo session organized on Tuesday, while the same morning, the president of the federation, Noël Le Graët, advanced in The Team that the subject would be dealt with after the World Cup in Qatar. In the evening, the hexagonal football body publishes in a press release, which it “undertakes to revise as soon as possible, the convention inherent to the rights to the image“.

Collective image rights, what are they?

In football as in any sport, and more broadly any activity of public order, the reputation of its main actors is a commercial asset, which must be subject to laws. “The collective image right results from the association of an individual and a collectiveexplains Tatiana Vassine, a lawyer specializing in sports law. In football, we talk about a collective either for a club or for a federation. When a player joins a collective, he gives him the right to use his image in a collective framework, which the law has set at five players per football team.

The reason for the quarrel is apparently quite simple: Kylian Mbappé wishes to have more control over his personal image when he represents the France team, and to be able to move the lines concerning the collective image rights to which the Blues are subject. .

Do the players have a say in their image in the France team?

Until now, and since the fiasco of the 2010 World Cup in Knysna (South Africa), the players of the France team no longer really have a hand when it comes to their image as a player. of the French team. “It is conditioned by the fact that a player who wishes to play in the France team must sign a charter with commitments, including that of lending his image to the FFFrecalls Tatiana Vassine. The balance of power is, so far, quite strong. The federation needs to promote its image, because the whole image of French football stems from that of the France team. There is zero room for negotiation for players, with significant concessions. The federation has a regulatory power: it can take measures for the players concerning the exploitation of their image.

France team striker Kylian Mbappé alongside FFF president Noël Le Graët during a Women's World Cup match on July 7, 2019. (PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

This is the case today, from the first selection until five years after the professional retirement of a French international. This time condition, as well as the players’ lack of scrutiny, is one of Kylian Mbappé’s main reasons for rebelling. The player does not want to see his advertising weight be used for soda manufacturers, or fast food deliverers, such as Coca-Cola and Uber Eats, partners of the French Football Federation. “It is important that players are in harmony with the advertisements in which they participate“, had specified Delphine Verheyden, lawyer of the player, in The Teamon March 28 (paid item).

A situation without major precedent in France

This coup led by the Paris Saint-Germain player should lead to “rights and obligations” reviewed and corrected, without the content of this new agreement having yet been communicated. For Tatiana Vassine, it is a real turnaround that takes place. “Claiming rights is never a bad thing. It is because sportsmen and women have done so that they have advanced sports law. We are witnessing a rebalancing of forces.

It is also by the nature of its instigator that the movement was able to gain momentum. The media stature of Kylian Mbappé and his individual image internationally make him a strong enough weight to carry such claims, while the intervention of the legislator “would be an interference“, specifies Tatiana Vassine. “It is the institution, here the FFF, which has the most power from a legal point of view because it has the regulatory power. But we must not forget that unlike clubs, the federation has a public service mission. There is a dimension that is other than pure business, there are also aspects of ethics.

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