The NFLPA, the players’ association of American football’s premier NFL, has terminated its partnership with sports trading card manufacturer Panini and will begin its new deal with digital sports and e-commerce platform Fanatics three years early.
Fanatics’ 20-year agreement with the NFLPA was not due to commence until 2026, coinciding with the union’s deal with Panini expiring.
The move is another significant blow to Panini which has lost several deals with major US sports leagues since Fanatics entered the trading card market in 2021 with the launch of its Fanatics Collectibles arm.
As well as the NFL, Fanatics has agreed long-term contracts with basketball’s NBA and baseball’s MLB.
Panini still has an exclusive license with the NBA in a deal running through September 2025, after which Fanatics will become the exclusive licensee of NBA cards through its new partnership with the league and its players’ union, the NBAPA, in the same year.
Fanatics secured deals with MLB and its players' association in August 2021 to become the exclusive licensee of its cards at the end of 2022.
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In a statement, the NFLPA said: “NFL Players Inc. has terminated its trading card agreement with Panini. Effective immediately, Fanatics has the exclusive right to make NFLPA-branded trading cards.
“This decision has no impact on any individual players’ contractual agreement(s) with Panini.”
The news comes amid an ongoing bitter legal battle between Panini and Fanatics.
Panini initiated proceedings by recently filing an antitrust lawsuit against its rival, alleging it is attempting to monopolize the trading card market after entering the sector two years ago.
Panini alleges Fanatics has engaged in “calculated, intentional, anticompetitive conduct” by securing long-term, exclusive licensing deals with leagues and players.
However, Fanatics quickly filed a countersuit alleging that businesses that have left Panini in favor of the e-commerce giant have done so due to its incompetency.
As well as its string of deals with leagues and unions over the last two years, Fanatics purchased the Topps sports trading card brand for around $500 million in January 2022.