Over 400 footballers across the United Kingdom have come together to file a lawsuit against betting and gaming companies that have allegedly illegally used player performance data to help clients win millions in bets. That data, though available readily through broadcast football matches, is considered the protected property of individual players. The information has been made available to punters without the consent of the players.
What is the lawsuit about?
For years, betting and gaming companies have been keeping tabs on players and their performance and rating them accordingly in specific aspects of the sport such as speed, passing, free-accuracy, etc. This performance information, however, belongs to the individual player, and can only be shared with the consent of the player. This has not been done.
What exactly is this data?
“The data in question is the performance data,” says Richard Dutton, director of the UK-based law firm ELIAS Partnership. “They are the sort of things that lots of data companies are using to inform other companies – betting companies or gaming companies – to make odds or create games, and it’s different from image rights.”
Essentially, performance data can be a football player’s rating, for instance, in terms of passing, speed, shooting accuracy, etc. To take an example from cricket, there could be the knowledge of a bowler whose fourth ball in an over tends to be a slower one. This same information can be accessed by a user of a fantasy league in order to make an informed decision as to which players might have a good outing on the next match day.
If matches are being broadcast, why is data sharing illegal?
There is no stopping a fan from sitting in front of the television and making note of how an individual player performs, which is perfectly legal. However, if that information is sold, without the consent of that player, it becomes illegal.
“When you collect that data, it’s potentially your hobby, which is fine,” Dutton says. “But when you start making money from that data, that’s where the issue lies. It’s a bit like you borrow someone’s car by saying you need to go buy groceries, but then you use it as a taxi service and make money from it. It’s the same principle.”
📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@ieexplained) and stay updated with the latest
What is the difference between data rights and image rights?
If say, Virat Kohli is paid by an electronics giant to use his face to sell products, or Sachin Tendulkar has a deal with a beverage company to appear in their advertisements, those are image rights. The player’s name or photograph cannot be circulated without the consent of the player.
Data rights are about the distribution of performance data without the approval of a player. “Take (the England fast bowler) Jofra Archer. We can say he uses the same run-up to bowl at 95, 90, and even a slower ball at 75 mph. Maybe you’ll notice that his fifth ball is usually the slower one… All of this data is personal performance tracking data,” Dutton says.
How is performance data used by betting or gaming companies?
Betting and gaming companies provide statistics to give users the opportunity to make an informed decision when they place bets. For example, the information could be how players from club A will have an advantage over players from club B because the latter team plays in a specific formation.
Essentially, that data can help punters know the odds before placing bets. Similarly, for gaming, a user would have the performance data of a player and can accordingly select a team in a fantasy league.
Are there laws that address the issue of data rights?
In the UK, yes. The Data Protection Act of 2018 in the UK and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), formed by the European Union, address this issue.
Are broadcasters allowed to televise performance data?
Yes, since they have paid for the rights to televise the matches and provide post and pre-match analysis.
Will fantasy leagues in India be affected by this?
It is unclear how these leagues will be affected if something like this comes up because the case in the UK is the first of its kind.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines