Football: the beautiful game and also, unfortunately, one of the dirtiest. So much money circulates at the top that corruption and scandal are as much a part of football history as Italy 90. Then the news that the image of the late Diego Maradona, one of the greatest of all time, has been removed from FIFA 22 from AND THE. The reason? An intractable licensing dispute over who has the right to profit from it.
Launch FIFA 22 and you will be greeted with this message:
“Due to a third-party legal dispute, we must suspend Diego Maradona from appearing in FIFA Ultimate Team Packs, Ultimate Draft and the Soccer Aid World XI team.
“As such, Diego Maradona Icon Items will no longer be available in Packs, SBCs and FUT Draft, and their price range has been corrected until further notice.
“We share the disappointment of our fans and look forward to bringing one of football’s greatest icons back to the game at some point in the future.”
Last year, an Argentine court paved the way for this, ruling that EA had negotiated the image rights with an individual who did not own them: Stefano Ceci, Maradona’s former manager. But this is just part of a much larger legal battle involving Maradona’s sons and a company called Sattvica, co-owned by Maradona’s former attorney Matias Morla.
Sattvica was founded in 2015, shortly after Maradona signed his trademark and likeness rights to Morla. Diego Maradona died in November 2020. After that, Sattvica claimed he owned the rights to his brand and image and has since been litigating around the world to claim that claim.
The back-and-forth is between Sattvica and Maradona’s daughters, Dalma Nerea Maradona Villafane and Dinorah Gianina Maradona Villafane. It’s all been pretty nasty. The sisters accused Morla of “betrayal, dishonesty and abuse” in his management of the Star Rights after his death. For her part, Morla said they “abandoned” her father and filed a complaint alleging digital bullying.
There have been several lawsuits: the most recent, filed in Florida earlier this year, accuses the couple of profiting from their father’s name (as reported by IPTech).
The beautiful game. I give the context to emphasize that this situation may not be resolved for quite some time. As perhaps the greatest player in history, Maradona’s trademark rights are a gold mine and will presumably remain so for a long time: this legal battle goes to the end. And no matter how big of FIFA the video game is, or how much money it can spend, you can’t buy the rights until it’s clear who owns them.
Then the unthinkable happened: Maradona is on the bench, and will remain so for a long time. It’s all very sad, if predictable, that the Golden Boy’s death was followed by a struggle to possess what he was in life.
As the FIFA video game has become increasingly intertwined with real-world sport over the past decade, publisher EA has also had to deal with some of the unpleasant realities surrounding real-world football: recent examples include remove a Manchester United player accused of rape, and fully removing Russian and Belarusian teams after the war in Ukraine.