Russell Slade leads £500m lawsuit over bookmakers’ use of sports stars’ performance data

After more than 25 years prowling the touchlines in English football’s lower leagues, Russell Slade has swapped tracksuits for lawsuits to take legal action against betting and gaming giants and the alleged illegal use of performance data.

Slade managed and coached at 13 clubs, including Cardiff, Grimsby and Leyton Orient, where he helped England captain Harry Kane launch his teenage career on loan from Tottenham.

However, since working as a management consultant at Stevenage in 2020, Slade, 61, has devoted his time to a crusade to ensure that footballers – and professional athletes in all sports – regain control of football. data regularly collected to measure and improve performance and often sold for profit without their consent.

Russell Slade leads legal action over bookmakers’ use of sports stars’ performance data

Already described as football’s biggest legal challenge since the Bosman ruling transformed the transfer system, the case is gaining momentum.

Legal Letters of Intent were sent this week on behalf of more than 1,400 professional footballers across the country, seeking between £400m and £500m in damages based on profits made by betting companies, games and data processing using their data.

“People are making millions with these footballers who have rights under UK law,” Slade (right) told Sportsmail. “Companies are abusing these rights and players need to take back control. We think we have a strong case.

Under existing UK data protection law, personal data belongs to the individual and not to the companies collecting it. Companies licensed by the Premier League, EFL and SPL, and asked by clubs to install the various gadgets to collect player performance information, should not sell them for profit. Some clearly are.

Slade tries to allow stars to take back control of their data which has been sold for a profit

Slade tries to allow stars to take back control of their data which has been sold for a profit

Slade and its partners at Global Sports Data and Technology (GSDT) claim to have tracked data submitted by no less than nine companies.

Usually, it ends up in the multi-billion pound gaming and gaming industries. There, it’s bolstered by the companies’ own refined data-gathering operations, with numbers recorded by people inside stadiums or watching on TV and crunched by highly paid mathematicians.

EA Sports, the American company that has earned billions from the hit FIFA video game series, employs thousands of people around the world to supplement the data they acquire from licensed sources and feed it into algorithms. to improve the gaming experience.

Without it, all football avatars would do the same thing, move at the same speed, pass and shoot with the same precision, and tackle with the same success rate.

Betting syndicates will funnel a mass of data through algorithms, performing calculations in seconds to perfect odds.

“If you can make a 2% difference in a market worth £400m on a Saturday, that’s £8m,” says Jason Dunlop, a data expert at GSDT with a background in cybersecurity. “The scale of treatment is huge and so advanced. It’s Googlesque. A betting company will have more data scientists than the entire Premier League.

Slade found that most athletes and women, and their employers (clubs), were unaware that their personal data was driving the wheels of these industries.

Enlightened, they opposed it for various reasons. One of the most common was an ethical point of view, especially when it came to gambling.

Slade found most athletes didn't know how their data was being used

Slade found most athletes didn’t know how their data was being used

Slade’s Project Red Card campaign encompasses all sports, including cricket. Many of the world’s biggest cricket stars are of strict Muslim faith, staunchly opposed to the game and unhappy to see their data sold to fuel the industry. Others were unhappy with the inaccuracies. Some knew their height and weight were wrong online.

Some even said that their dates of birth were wrong.

“Attitude is a category that often bothers players,” says Slade, but beyond that, who defines a high-intensity race? What is a missed opportunity? What is help? Are all measurements equal?

How can tactical instruction be factored into metrics such as distance covered in a match when one full-back is told to stay seated and another is encouraged to tear up the wing from top to bottom low throughout the game.

This is drifting towards scouting, now heavily dependent on data.

“It could be the difference between a player getting a big hit or not,” Slade says.

A realistic solution to the legal entanglement would be for athletes to decide individually if they want to consent to the processing of their data and if so by whom. Then, for them to be paid accordingly.

“We feel responsible for fixing this problem,” says Dunlop. “It’s wrong because many professional athletes, many of whom don’t get mega salaries for driving Ferraris, don’t get a fair share of the pie.”

“In this case, we believe the law is on their side and if they mobilize their rights, they can change it.”

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