In an interview published in today’s L’Équipe, Kylian Mbappé’s lawyer Delphine Verheyden explains the reasoning behind the forward’s boycott of his sponsorship commitments with the French national team.
The 23-year-old had been absent from his marketing obligations with Les Bleus’ sponsors last Tuesday, reportedly as he did not want to associate his image with certain brands, but also over the nature and length of the image rights agreement signed by French players.
“When a player is called up to the French national team for the first time, one of the first things they do is sign a document handed to them which will govern their rights and obligations with the team. The document is valid from when it’s signed and expires five years after the end of their professional career. That’s the first things that poses a problem to us. For Kylian, that will essentially go from the age of 18 to 40 years old. Committing to that kind of length is not realistic. The convention was written up in 2010 and the world of 2022 has nothing to do with that of the post-Knysna times [French team going on strike at South Africa World Cup]. For us, it’s mathematic and philosophical.”
“[…] As well as the lack of benefits there can be for players, there’s more importantly a massive risk that their image could be warped. A player’s image is a reputation associated with values. These values are notably expressed in the adverts that players accept to do. It’s important that players are in harmony with the advertising in which they take part. For their young audience, they act as role models. This should be handled with care.”
“Otherwise the messages that a player wants to get across become inaudible, even completely contradictory. And the new generation is no longer ready to compromise with their principles and ideals. Kylian is an athlete from the new generation. After the  World Cup, Kylian tried, despite the high number of offers he received, to make his own choices. Rather than [promoting] food which could lead to obesity, he made the choice to go for “Good Goût”, an organic food brand for children. That doesn’t mean that he himself is beyond reproach in what he consumes, but rather that he wants to take the right message to the youngest audience who are influenced by their idols.”
“[We want to] review the convention without delay, before the next phot shoot in September for the World Cup. It’s not possible for the FFF to work like this anymore and with this initial agreement without speaking to the players at the start of every season. Given the current climate, what would have happened if a Russian company had been an FFF sponsor? The players, as things are, would not have had any way of turning down promoting this brand. They need to have the possibility of have a clause of conscience.”
“We have to distinguish from, on the one hand, the official full team photo which can be used freely. That poses no issue as it’s indeed the French national team being represented. On the other hand, we need to rework the idea of a collective image when it only concerns five players. For these kinds of uses, players should have a right of inspection. And it’s not always the same ones that should be picked, as it’s too often the case for Kylian right now.”
“[On official shirt sales] Who has the rights? The kit supplier, the FFF and the players. If the player’s name goes on the shirt, he should earn something. Everyone is then free to decide if they want to keep the money or have it go to grassroots football’s benefit. That’s how Kylian wants to intervene in what he generates.”
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