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Who needs FIFA? EA ‘closing in’ on deal with Premier League

Publisher reportedly ready to sign English league up for EA Sports FC

a collage of 45 tiles each featuring the letters “FC” with an EA Sports logo in the center, for EA Sports FC Image: Electronic Arts
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

When Electronic Arts took the bold step of walking away from its decades-long association with FIFA, world football’s governing body, it entered a brave new world for its soccer game series, which will now go by the name EA Sports FC. Well, kind of a brave new world.

In fact, EA has built a network of relationships in the football world over the past 30 years, including many licensing deals with individual leagues and teams, and doubtless now feels comfortable striking those deals on its own without the notoriously corrupt FIFA’s name attached.

So it’s no surprise to read a report from Sky Sports that EA is about to put the biggest piece of the post-FIFA puzzle in place by signing a licensing deal with the English Premier League.

According to Sky, the deal is worth close to $600 million, and will deliver the Premier League around $95 million annually. That sounds like an awful lot (and it’s apparently more than double the previous deal between the parties), but remember that the Ultimate Team mode of EA’s soccer games alone delivers an incredible $1.6 billion in revenue in a single year. EA will retain exclusive video game rights to the League and remain as a lead partner. There was never any doubt that EA would be able to make this deal, and it’s easy to assume that all the other deals required to ensure EA Sports FC is as fully-featured as its FIFA predecessors will fall into place behind it.

The Premier League is known as a marketing and commercial powerhouse that features many of the world’s most famous clubs, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Such is its strength that it recently saw off an attempt to create a breakaway European Super League, persuading England’s top clubs to stay instead.

After 30 years making the world’s most successful football video game series, EA is in a similar position of power. At the time of the breakup, FIFA (which owns the rights to the World Cup) pledged to keep FIFA video games going independently. But without EA’s expertise, and without partners like the Premier League, it’s hard to see how it can compete.