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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 13:48 GMT
Image rights explained
David Beckham
Beckham's image is worth millions of pounds
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

"It's not the salary that's a problem, it's just the image rights that needed a little perking."

So says David Beckham in relation to his contract negotiations with Manchester United.

But what exactly are image rights, and how do they work?

David Beckham poses for an advertising campaign
Beckham's image promotes products across the world
If you are a household name, like Beckham, your image and name have a value similar to that of a brand name like Coca-Cola or Nike.

The idea of image rights is that the household name has control over how their name is used and exploited commercially.

Beckham's face will sell products across the world and make huge amounts of money for his club.

By factoring this into his contract, the player is making sure that he receives a percentage of the money other people are making from his image.

Sports agent Dave Williams, who represents England rugby stars Matt Dawson, Dan Luger and Ben Cohen, explains.

"Sport is part of the entertainment industry," he says. "It's about recognition.

"In the film world, Brad Pitt's salary will incorporate an element for his acting and an image rights portion - the right to use his face on promotional posters and in merchandising spin-offs.

Dwight Yorke with glamour model Jordan
Dwight Yorke's move to Middlesbrough foundered on image rights
"To sign a contract purely based on performance on the sports field is a little bit naive if you're somebody who does have true value as a household name.

"It makes sense to license your image or copyright it to exploit its value.

"Ninety-five per cent of people in the country will have heard of David Beckham, and he'll generally be thought of as a great footballer who captains his country, who is married to a Spice Girl and is fashionable.

"That in itself is worth something to a football club, to T-shirt manufacturers, to people who publish books and to TV companies."

A question of haggling

Beckham will not be giving United exclusive rights to his image, only the right to use it in joint commercial deals with the club - for example, a Manchester United video with Beckham's face on the cover.

The dispute between player and club is likely to be simply a question of haggling over the exact amount, one trying to get more money, the other trying to save money.

"It's about finding a value which is based on market rate, then factoring in the value of the player to the club and the club to the player," explains Williams.

"There's no mathematical formula you can use.

"The sportsman's advisors will then set up a company that is assigned the image rights.

"You might have 'David Beckham Ltd' given the right to license out his name, nickname, voice, signature - you name it.

"Any business which is done in a combination of David Beckham and Manchester United will be split so that David gets his royalties paid into this image rights company."

Team complications

The situation is more complicated when you are dealing with a team, rather than an individual.

When rugby union was still an amateur sport, the fame of players like Bill Beaumont or Mick Skinner was used to market the game without the players receiving a fee.

As the game's culture has adjusted to professionalism, high-profile disputes have arisen on finding a value for these image rights.

Italy's Diego Dominguez
Diego Dominguez was in dispute with Italy over the use of his image
The England rugby and football squads now operate on the same principles.

The sports' governing bodies must use three or more players in any commercial venture, for a number of reasons.

They cannot use a single player because that player owns their own naming rights.

Just using, say, Lawrence Dallaglio would weaken that player's earning potential elsewhere and also prevent the lesser lights in the team from getting any exposure.

As a result, everyone in the team is used equally, and there is parity in pay between players despite their relative fame.

High incomes

A sponsor of the England football squad cannot come forward and just use Michael Owen, Beckham and Rio Ferdinand.

If you see Owen in an England commercial - for example for Burtons, or Umbro - you'll also see at least two other players with a lower profile.

The value for a team or individual's image rights are also not affected by which groups in society the sport in question appeals to.

Rugby might be supported by more high-income earners than snooker or darts, but it is the total number of people and the intensity of the support that makes the difference.

See also:

07 Feb 02 |  Man Utd
Fergie U-turn delights Beckham
03 Feb 02 |  Eng Prem
Beckham offered 2.5m bonus
19 Oct 01 |  Man Utd
Beckham deal 'deadlocked'
18 Jan 01 |  Italy
Italy sweat on Dominguez
Links to more Football stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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