It’s not just kids’ weekend sports that have taken a hit this year due to COVID-19, we’ve seen the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games postponed and the suspension/postponement of all major (and minor) sporting events across Australia.
In these times of social distancing, we’d like to welcome to the ring one of the only sports that is still thriving, with revenue expected to hit over $1bn this year – esports! If you’re only just hearing about esports (seriously, it’s been around for years!), you might want to check out our previous articles on the topic.
Although a few physical esports tournaments have been cancelled, the industry has been able to go back to its online roots. Yup, esports is BOOMing! At its core, esports doesn’t require players to be in the same venue or even on the same continent for that matter. Esports tournaments can easily comply with social distancing norms.
Twitch and Steam, both major esports platforms, have reported a massive increase in subscribers. Even ‘traditional’ sports like Formula 1 and NASCAR have started virtual tournaments featuring big name drivers and schedules that mirror the cancelled races.
What are some legal challenges associated with eSports during times of isolation (and beyond)?
- Ensuring proper contracts are in place. Player contracts, venue contracts, streaming/broadcasting contracts, sponsorship contracts, merchandising contracts, we can go on and on. Ensuring that these contracts are properly drafted is key to ensuring that everyone is clear on their rights, obligations and the expectations being placed on them. And, most importantly, ensuring that payment occurs following an agreed trigger date, such as the last fixture of a particular tournament. Contracts also need to keep in mind local and international laws, as esports tournaments often attract gamers from across the world.
- Immigration laws. For tournaments that require players to travel (which is difficult at the moment), consideration needs to be given to whether players can cross State borders, whether a period of self-isolation is required after travel, or if a visa for entry into Australia (or the relevant country in which the tournament is being held) is required and, if so, what type of visa. If a player is receiving money for participation in a tournament, a tourist visa won’t work!
- Betting on esports. An increasing number of Australian sportsbooks are starting to offer competitive esports betting markets for both Australian and international esports events. It’s important you find a reputable and authorised sports book that offers a wide range of esports betting markets as well as competitive odds, and one which will pay out and not run off with your money 1 minute after you’ve placed your bet. Also, if you’re a player, bear in mind that esports competitors are treated in the same way as competitors in ‘traditional’ sports, with match-fixing considered a criminal offence in Australia and elsewhere around the world.
- Familiarise yourself with the competition rules. If you’re entering an esports tournament, make sure you read, and follow, the terms and conditions of entry. In Australia, the t’s & c’s of esports tournaments must comply with our national consumer law and they govern how the tournament will be run, and any sanctions that can be applied to players who breach the terms after entry, including during the tournament.
- Respecting IP Protection Laws. Most esports tournaments are built around popular games. The intellectual property rights of these games reside with developers who control how these rights can be used. This can lead to tricky situations where the tournament organisers have to contact multiple license holders, and secure licences, to host a tournament and seek certification for the use of the games in the tournament.