Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah’s conflict with the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and its sponsor over the unauthorised use of his image for advertising made headlines in local Egyptian and some English media outlets. The crisis erupted around late March between Rami Abbas, Salah’s agent and lawyer, and the EFA, after the player starred in a television advertisement for a telecommunications company that competes with the sponsoring company of the EFA. The company threatened to seek compensation from the EFA for the incident.
The problem lies in determining the side that owns the sponsorship rights of Salah and who has the right to permit the player to participate in advertising campaigns? Do the rights of the sponsoring company of the EFA conflict with the rights of the other companies sponsoring Salah?
FIFA has clear rules that regulate sponsorship contracts of players, to which all parties should be committed. The crisis escalated sharply after Abbas referred via Twitter to a “big problem” facing Salah with the EFA without giving any details.
“We are facing a very serious problem with the EFA,” Abbas said, adding in another tweet, “You do not even know what you have?”
The dispute started when the EFA revealed the private plane that will be allocated to transport the national team to its training camps outside Egypt. The plane was already used to transport the team to Switzerland where Egypt played against Portugal and Greece in preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The plane bears the photo of Salah wearing the national team kit next to slogans of the companies contracting with the sponsor of the EFA. The incident was rejected by Abbas, especially since those companies compete with other sponsors of the player.
Abo Rida meets Salah
Sources revealed that Hany Abo Rida, head of the EFA, had a friendly meeting with Salah during the training camp of Egypt held in Switzerland, during which he asked the Liverpool star to sign some kits of the national team for promotion’s sake and hold a photo session for one of the sponsoring companies of the EFA, in addition to sitting down for a short TV interview with one of the channels belonging to the sponsors. Salah showed no sign of objection at all.
EFA reacts to Abbas’ tweets
Following Abbas’ remarks, the EFA denied any disputes with the player, adding that the association has nothing to do with the statements of the “non-Egyptian” Abbas who the association said does not know the deep relations between Salah and the Egyptian people in general, and the EFA in particular.
Salah also starred in an advertisement as part of an anti-drug campaign titled “You are Stronger than Drugs”, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA). However, the player’s agent objected to the use of this advertising clip by the sponsoring company of the EFA in two other advertisements, which was denied by the sponsoring company of the EFA.
The EFA stressed that the relationship between its sponsoring company and Salah as a player in the Egyptian national team is regulated by internationally recognised marketing rules. They added that it was unreasonable that a foreign company intervene in that relationship to achieve commercial purposes at the expense of Egyptians. They noted that the sponsoring company exercised its rights stipulated in the contract.
The sponsor of the EFA denied any disputes with Salah, asserting that he is “the pride of Arabs.” The company pointed out that Abbas made up the problem to oppose the company’s marketing rights, which involves Salah as a player in the Egyptian football team. According to sources at the company, Abbas refused that Salah appear in any advertising campaigns without reference to his legal representative, while the company insisted that it holds the sponsoring rights of the national team, especially since the companies that deal with the legal representative are not among the companies dealing with the EFA.
Legal opinions on the crisis
According to a number of legal sources and experts, the appearance of Salah in collective advertising campaigns or photos does not represent any conflict with the legal representative of the player because this is the original right of the sponsoring company contracting with the EFA.
Mohamed Fadlallah, a sports regulations expert, confirmed that the player’s appearance individually in press interviews or advertisements with any company that did not contract with the legal representative of the player is illegal and violates regulations governing sponsoring rights.