EA Sports and FIFA are breaking up, with a licensing agreement which dates back more than 25 years set to end ©Getty Images

FIFA's long and fruitful partnership with EA Sports is to end next year, with the game developer moving forward under EA SPORTS FC branding.

EA Sports has been releasing games under the FIFA banner since 1993 and it is the world's best-selling video game franchise.

The naming agreement has been a valuable source of income for football's global governing body, especially as licensing rights became a significant revenue stream for FIFA in non-World Cup years.

In 2020, as much as $158.9 million (£114.4 million/€133.2 million) of FIFA’s $266.5 million (£191.9 million/€223.3 million) of overall revenue - 60 per cent - came from licensing rights.

The EA Sports deal represented a significant portion of revenue from licensing rights and was in effect passive income for FIFA.

While EA Sports forges ahead with EA SPORTS FC - a series which appears set to retain licensing deals with most of football's leading clubs and leagues - FIFA plans to pursue a new major simulation title from 2024 onwards and has championed a non-exclusive licensing model as allowing for new official games to come out before the World Cup in Qatar.

"I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans," FIFA President Gianni Infantino claimed.

"The FIFA name is the only global, original title. 

"FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on - the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain The Best."

Electronic Arts is moving on from its licensing agreement with FIFA  ©Getty Images
Electronic Arts is moving on from its licensing agreement with FIFA ©Getty Images

The Best is the branding FIFA has given to its new annual awards, designed to rival the award of the Ballon d'Or.

"The interactive gaming and esports sector is on a path of unrivalled growth and diversification," Infantino continued.

"FIFA’s strategy is to ensure we can make the most of all future options and ensure a wide range of products and opportunities for gamers, fans, member associations and partners."

FIFA also claims the new strategy has been developed with new streaming platform FIFA+ in mind.

EA Sports and FIFA have extended their partnership until 2023, covering the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but FIFA 23 will be the last title in the franchise as it is known today.

England's Premier League, La Liga in Spain and the German Bundesliga - widely considered three of the best four leagues in world football - have all signed up to EA SPORTS FC.

European governing body UEFA, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and sportswear giant Nike have also been announced as partners.

More than 700 teams, 19,000 athletes, 100 stadiums and at least 30 leagues will be in the new games, EA Sports - a division of Electronic Arts - promises.

"Our vision for EA SPORTS FC is to create the largest and most impactful football club in the world, at the epicenter of football fandom," Electronic Arts chief executive Andrew Wilson said. 

"For nearly 30 years, we’ve been building the world’s biggest football community - with hundreds of millions of players, thousands of athlete partners, and hundreds of leagues, federations, and teams.

"EA SPORTS FC will be the club for every one of them, and for football fans everywhere."

The end of one of FIFA's most important commercial relationships comes with Infantino seeking re-election.

The Swiss-Italian official is after a third term as President, having first been elected in February 2016 in the wake of the corruption scandal which brought down predecessor Sepp Blatter.

The election is due to take place at next year's FIFA Congress, the venue for which has not yet been announced.

Before then, a contentious World Cup is due to be played in Qatar.

Gianni Infantino is seeking a third term as FIFA President  ©Getty Images
Gianni Infantino is seeking a third term as FIFA President ©Getty Images

Infantino had been a champion of an idea, formally pitched by Saudi Arabia, to stage biennial World Cups.

FIFA's relationship with UEFA has turned soured over the proposal and Infantino has now distanced himself from the idea, insisting FIFA only "studied the feasibility" of the suggestion rather than proposing it, as momentum behind the motion has stalled.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is among organisations to have voiced opposition to biennial FIFA World Cups.

Infantino is an IOC member.

The ending of the EA Sports deal also comes at a time when growth of FIFA's marketing revenue has stalled.

Marketing generated $1.66 billion (£1.25 billion/€1.47 billion) of revenue in 2015-2018, the last completed World Cup cycle.

This was only a small increase on 2011-2014's figure of $1.63 billion (£1.23 billion/€1.44 billion).