Becoming part of the furniture: eSports in the mainstream

Djokovic wins Wimbledon and receives a cheque for £2.25m. Molinari wins The Open and takes home £1.4m. The Red Bull OG team win The International 2018 and pocket $11m. Unfortunately, anyone already in full-time employment is likely to be past the psychological point of throwing it all up in the air to master the online video game Dota 2. The online fantasy and action gaming world clearly eclipses those who just want to be good at EA Sports’ FIFA game (2018 prize pool being a paltry $400,000) and there are few club competitions where the level of reward is so high.

As a result, teams are springing up all over the world to play any number of games where leagues and championships are organised, be it Fortnite, Call of Duty or Clash Royale. Untold numbers of Gen X parents might well tear their hair out at the time their children spend on screens, but follow this through and within decades, for every real world major competitive game there will almost certainly be an online equivalent. The potential sales of the online games as a result of such exposure will mean that the prize money available will be, by any standards, eye-watering. It’s not traditional pension planning, but if you can get your children gaming early, you could be in for a great retirement.

Legal interaction with eSports is as important as in the non-digital world – after all, we are still talking about humans and their careers. Considerable overlaps exist with traditional sports – player contracts, competition rules, betting and integrity issues (yes, match fixing and doping affects the online game too), but there are also issues specific to e-sports which need careful handling:

All of the above ignores the club obligations which run alongside: team administration, competition and league entry fees and broadcast rights to name a few. In case you were wondering what a team cost base might look like, just the team entry fee for the North American League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) is in the region of $10m!

If you want a real-life example of the way in which online gaming can shape a career as well as show the development of an industry, you could do better than start with the story of “Nadeshot” (real name Matt Haag) and his 100 Thieves team. Entertainment precedent indicates that what happens in the US invariably works its way over the Atlantic. The scale of existing UK gaming infrastructure, its estimated annual revenues of £2.5bn combined with a well-developed player base and commercial interest – after all, it even has its own BAFTA awards night – shows how online gaming as a sport really has become part of the furniture.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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