Booting up: Footballers kick off GDPR case for 'misuse' of their performance data

Legal action aims to give players a say in how data about them is traded

A group of footballers – soccer players for US readers – are set to launch legal action over what they consider to be the unauthorised use of their personal and performance data.

Industry advisor Global Sports Data and Technology Group, which is backing the group of leather ball kickers, has initially identified 17 major betting, entertainment and data collection firms it believes to be in breach, according to the BBC.

The group is led by former Cardiff City, Leyton Orient and Yeovil Town manager Russell Slade, who said even a player from the lower-league clubs might have 7,000 pieces of information about them traded on an open market. It is alleged that more than 150 organisations may have misused the data.

The group says 850 players are looking for compensation for the use of their performance data over the past six years.

The data they're complaining about ranges from figures detailing the average goals-per-game for an outfield player to the athletes' height - however, Slade has previously expressed concern this is sometimes wrong. Article 4 of the European General Data Protection Regulations, which is still contained in UK GDPR and implemented by the Data Protection Act of 2018, says "personal data" refers to a range or identifiable information, including data about physical attributes, location or physiology.

The group's legal team argue that because players receive no payment for the unlicensed use of their data, their rights under UK GDPR are breached. Slade told the BBC that companies were taking player performance data and processing it without the individual consent of that player.

Currently, clubs use data to manage player performance, while third parties exploit it, for example, to help set odds in the betting industry.

While the current case is focused on football, the broadcaster said other professional sports bodies were considering bringing similar legal action over the trading of data.

Dave Edwards, former Luton Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers player, told the BBC that the legal action was a chance for players to take more control of the way information about them is used.

"The more I've looked into it and you see how our data is used, the amount of channels it's passed through, all the different organisations which use it, I feel as a player we should have a say on who is allowed to use it," he said.

The lawyer behind the action, Chris Farnell, said the action could be the start of a sport-wide reshaping of how data is traded.

"This will be a significant change if the precedent is set throughout football and how data is used throughout sport in general," he said. ®

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