The Business Behind FIFA Soccer

A behind-the-scenes look at the licensing department for FIFA’s soccer video games

By: Michelle Monteiro, Staff Writer

The FIFA Soccer video games have come a long way since their inception. But when playing, gamers will rarely, if ever, think about the developers or even the legalities needed to create the game as it is known today. Where one team works on bringing the software to life, another brings in the authenticity, embarking on a journey around the globe, securing the rights to fill the video game with the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Neymar, van Persie, Gotze, and their respective  teams and stadiums.

An extensive licensing department deals with leagues, clubs, players’ unions and occasionally stadium owners to ensure they are incorporated in the franchise. With thirty-three leagues and more than six hundred clubs already in the game, the business behind the scenes has become a complicated web of agreements.

Perhaps complicated is an understatement.

A licensing deal with leagues or clubs allows EA Canada, the game developer, to use uniforms, club names, crests, and the right to use trophies and championships. A deal with the International Federation of Professional Footballers gives the rights to use real players’ names and likenesses.

Agreements like these already exist with the English Premier League and North America’s Major Soccer League, among other tournaments, giving EA the rights to use all their member teams.

However, obtaining other leagues proves to be a challenge. Countries, like Brazil for example, are more complex, demanding individual deals with clubs, those owning the rights to tournament structures and league names.

The process is even more daunting, considering that there are limitations within these agreements, which ultimately means that the licensing department will frequently need to renegotiate, a cycle of travelling and negotiating over and over. As David Rutter, executive producer of the FIFA franchise, puts it, licensing is “a real labour of love”, an ongoing process.

Fortunately for the upcoming FIFA 14, to be released in North American next month, the licensing team earned special partnerships with some clubs, including the Barcelona Spanish team, allowing developers access to players for interviews and, more importantly, three-hundred-and-sixty degree 3D digital head scan images to create the players in the game (replacing photographs as the models).

Additionally, gamers are also given an option of sharing their gaming information when playing the new FIFA product – a huge benefit for these clubs who can access the information on how their fans are playing the game, who they like to play against and where their supporters are located. In turn, club marketing departments can use this to their advantage.

According to Rutter, the future of FIFA soccer video games will include all the players, clubs and leagues known worldwide.

“As a football fan and as a FIFA fan and as a guy that makes that game for millions of fans around the world, for me I won’t really be happy until our fans have access to every single team and league in the world. Which is kind of our approach to game play and everything,” he said. “But I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal for the next couple of years. But it’s certainly something we aim to do.”

Creating the game as we know it, isn’t as simple as scoring a goal with your console.

FIFA 14 will be available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in November.


Known as Michelle, she has been writing since hands could grasp paper and pencils. She has learned that a pencil is an extension of the hand, a gateway to the psyche. Currently, she’s an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, completing a BA in English.

Show more