Footballers In England Plan Legal Action Over Personal Data Usage

Hundreds of footballers from around the English game plan to take legal action against a number of companies, including potentially betting service suppliers, seeking payment for the use of their results and monitoring data.

The case could have far-reaching ramifications for gathering and using player data for betting markets, a claim involving sources.

Under the Project Red Card banner, former Leyton Orient and Cardiff City manager Russell Slade and his company Global Sports Data are leading the potential legal action that the parties say could be worth “hundreds of millions of pounds” to the plaintiffs.

Law firm Freeths was hired to represent the group, with Elias Partnership serving independent data advisory business in a supporting capacity.

While defendant could not yet be named in the case, Richard Dutton, director of Elias Partnership, told iGB that “potential target defendants” are companies involved in the betting industry.

Dutton claimed that the case had asserted data rights and was brought as players without reimbursement for the use of their personal performance data, claiming that this indicated that they could seek lost income for six years.

Dutton explained: “It’s about the performance and tracking data, which we contend doesn’t have the players’ consent, and it’s about the rights of players. No individual owns their data, but we have rights about its use, particularly under GDPR but also under, for example, the Data Protection Act of 2018.”

He explained, however, that the problem involved was about corporations profiting from the data, rather than controlling the information itself. While the material could be in the public domain, Dutton added, this does not mean that it could be sold out.

“There’s nothing wrong with you or I making notes for our own benefit of how a player is playing,” he said. “That’s how many players are scouted.

“The issue here is that organisations are compiling all this data on the players and then selling it without the appropriate consent, and that’s not okay.”

More than 400 current and former players are currently signed up, Dutton told iGB, with “hundreds” of more showing interest. Elias says there may be more than 1,000 players joining Project Red Cardl.

Some players plan to sue for a sum that Dutton said could be in “the hundreds of millions,” but that will be distributed across a number of defendants that might likely include companies outside the betting industry.

Dutton said the case could prove to have a significant impact on the future of data protection because it is the first of its kind, with the commercial significance of personal data becoming clear only recently. He cited a class action case against British Airways in 2019, in which consumers were able to seek compensation after personal data had been compromised in a data breach, as an example of court acceptance of this interest.

The Genius Sports brand of BetGenius currently provides data for betting purposes for the Premier League, the English Football League and the Scottish Professional Football League, after signing an agreement in May 2019.

Sports data company Stats Perform last month agreed with Football DataCo on an exclusive official rights agreement to acquire and distribute game data for all major English and Scottish football leagues.

The deal, which includes the English Premier League, will require Stats Perform to provide accurate details to internet, fantasy, broadcast, and professional teams worldwide.