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Athletes taking action on performance data
Pic: Shutterstock

24 Aug 2021 / data law Print

Athletes taking action on performance data

Lawyers at William Fry say that more athletes are now realising that they own the data that tracks their sporting performances.

In a note on the firm’s website, Patrick Murphy and Karolina Rozhnova say that performance data can range from traditional statistics – such as the amount of goals, assists or game appearances – to biometric data, including blood-oxygen levels, pulse and other health data.

They cite figures from research firm MarketsandMarkets showing that the global market for sports analytics is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $5.2 billion by 2024, with performance analysis expected to be the fastest-growing segment of that market.

Footballers ready to act

They also refer to the ‘Project Red Card' initiative, led by former Cardiff City manager Russell Slade, who is seeking to bring legal proceedings on behalf of over 400 current and former UK footballers against certain gaming, betting and data-processing companies.

The proceedings allege that the companies have been using players' personal data, without their consent, for financial gain. If launched, the action will seek to prove that athletes' performance data is 'personal data', as defined in data-protection law, and to recover compensation for these players.

The William Fry lawyers point out that some stakeholders – such as clubs and agencies – have a direct contractual relationship with athletes, but bookmakers and broadcasters may not.

“An athlete's contract with a club should address the use of their personal data, as required under relevant data-protection laws (GDPR and the Data Protection Acts 1988-2018 in Ireland),” they say.


They add that appropriate data-processing transparency, by way of a data-protection privacy notice, should be given to the athlete.

“Such notices should be comprehensive, clear and provide specific and explicit details of the purposes for which the data will be used,” the note says.

The lawyers draw a distinction between personal data – such as athletes' biometric data – and simple tracking data that may be considered already in the public domain. They say that the use of biometric data may be subject to an increased level of justification under GDPR.

Under GDPR, athletes have the right to access their data, request rectifications and have the right to erasure.

“The wider exercise of such rights by athletes, specifically the right to erasure, could create gaps which may reduce the utility and overall value of performance data,” the William Fry note says.

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