Footballers Set To Launch Legal Action For The Misuse Of Their Performance Data

850 professional football players have threatened legal action in relation to the alleged misuse of their performance data for the past six years. The data in question ranges from the player’s average goals per game to their height and is often traded by different companies without the consent of the individual players.

Clubs use the performance data collected to manage player performance. However, often third parties choose to exploit the data by using it to set odds in the betting industry.

Football players threaten data firms with GDPR legal action

The football players have alleged that as they are not paid for the use of the data nor have they consented to the processing of their performance data, the companies in question are in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Article 4 of the GDPR defines personal data as:

any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person…who can be identified directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier”.

An identifier could be a name or it could be a specific reference to a physical attribute amongst other things. Given the wide-ranging nature of the performance data, including physical attributes such as height, it is likely to be classed as personal data for the purposes of Article 4.

Led by Russell Slade, former manager of Cardiff City, Leyton Orient, and Yeovil Town, 850 players have sent letters before action to 17 businesses, alleging misuse of their performance data over the last six years and are seeking compensation. The players also want an annual fee from the businesses for any future use of their performance data.

The issue of consent

The question then arises as to whether the companies in question require the consent of the players to use the performance data.

In very simple terms, an organisation can use your personal data if they have a valid reason to do so. In law, there are six reasons (known as lawful bases) that allow an organisation to process your data, and actually only one of these is consent. There are five other bases on which an organisation can lawfully process personal data with the individual’s consent. Have a read of our previous article on the lawful basis for processing data.

What will the footballers need to prove?

In essence, to be successful in their claim the football players are going to need to prove that the companies who allegedly misused their performance data did not have ANY lawful bases for processing.


This matter is still in the early stages with letters before action having only just been sent. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. If a claim is pursued and ultimately the footballers are successful, there is likely going to be a shift in the way in which sports performance data will be collected and used in the future.

football misuse performance data

How Nelsons can help

Ruby Ashby is an Associate in our expert Dispute Resolution team.

Should you be affected by any data protection issues, please do not hesitate to contact Ruby or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.

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