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Project Red Card Could Mean Trouble for Bookmakers

July 29, 2020

- Grant Whittington

A controversial and potentially bank-breaking new initiative is threatening to claim royalties from bookmakers as well as miscellaneous data gatherers for the use of personal player-statistics and data from as far as 6 years back.

More than 400 former English Premier League, English Football League, Scottish Premier League, and National League players have now joined former EFL manager Russell
Slade’s Project Red Card.

Project Red Card hopes to establish a brand-new regulation set to administrate personal brand property owned by individual soccer players. If the initiative were to succeed, players and former players will henceforth be authorised to demand royalty payments from any person or body in any way benefiting financially or otherwise from the use of player-specific data and statistics.

Slade has served in the capacity of team-manager at several clubs, including Cardiff City, Coventry City, Hereford FC, and Brighton and Hove Albion. The well-known FC manager is also one of the co-founders of the Global Sports Data and Technology Group – a group offering digitised “smart-contracts” to professional soccer players by making use of blockchain technology.

Setting Dangerous Precedents

The fact that Slade’s Project Red Card seeks specifically the settlement of back-payment claims is what is at this stage of the game most worrying to bookmakers and other relevant parties. If successful, the project could see compensation running far into the hundreds of millions of pounds being granted in its favour.

Since player-data pertaining to individual sports professionals and athletes have been value-chained by bookmakers since as far back as the early 1990s, its only the current statues of limitations holding Slade and his project back from claiming damages running back 30 years.

Even so, if granted, bookmakers may soon be seriously out of pocket during a time already disastrously tapping on the budgets of businesses the world over. Data is big business – and even more so when that data can be used constructively by in-play bettors and punters.

You Can’t Copyright A Fact

Slade believes in the success of his project and campaign from a legal point of view, citing an age mindful of privacy and data ownership-rights as possible pillars of support. But not everyone is equally convinced of his and his group’s prospects of success.

Since anything classified as fact cannot by law be copyrighted, being instead very much a part of the public domain, the rules of UK intellectual property law may mean the undoing of Slade’s entire campaign.

A prime example of how this particular principle did in the past return for the big bite from behind was when the Major Basketball League tried to sue fantasy sports site CDM Fantasy Sports based on a similar premise to that of Slade’s, back in 2006. A US federal judge back then ruled that the statistics the MLB was trying to claim royalty payments for, classified as fact, i.e. already the intellectual property of the general public.

Even though that particular lawsuit was instituted under an altogether different legal system, being that of the federal U.S., many believe the basic principles to apply in a similar way to matters raised in the United Kingdom and Britain.

A local example of why Slade will in all likelihood not succeed in his latest endeavour is that of a UK-based dispute between the UK Football League’s official data-provider, Dataco, and Yahoo UK. A UK court ruled a fixture list to be in the public domain, and as a result, not subject to copyright and IP laws.

Destined To Fail?

The only plausible scenario that could even begin to lead to a situation of monetary accountability on the part of bookmakers would be if the data gathered by the bookies was obtained and collected in an inappropriate manner.

Conventional wisdom is therefore in Slade’s case very much against the project even getting off the ground.

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