Electronic sports, better known as “e-Sports” (acronym for electronic sports) refers to professional multiplayer video game competitions in which different players, representing a club, compete against each other and within the framework of an event that can take place online or offline and with the possibility of obtaining a financial reward and/or trophy.
E-Sports” have points in common with traditional sports: professional athletes, teams, training sessions, rules, schools, coaches, psychologists, referees, events, fans, television broadcasting of tournaments and consequent marketing of audiovisual rights. Nevertheless, regulation of the sector is pending, and the professionalization of leagues, teams and players also requires a stable legal framework for all actors involved, which defines whether “e-Sports” is considered a sport modality. Therefore, at present, the sector is regulated by the existing commercial, labour, intellectual property or competition regulations, among others.
Increasingly, the professionalization of the sector is necessary, among others, in the negotiation of contracts with teams and players, sponsorships, intellectual property and team codes of conduct.
In 2017 the International Olympic Committee has decided to admit electronic sports as a sporting activity and not to close the door to its future inclusion in an Olympic Games as long as it is non-violent video games. Without prejudice to this, the Consejo Superior de Deportes has not yet taken a position on the possible recognition of “e-Sports” as a sport modality in Spain.
The “e-Sports” are emerging as a lucrative business that in 2017 amounted to 650 million euros worldwide, 41% more than last year and with an investment of brands in sponsorship of 480 million euros. Duels between video game players bring together millions of spectators in front of the screens to follow them live and, increasingly, enthusiasts in stadiums to watch the competitions. One example of the interest in e-Sports in Barcelona was the FIFA 18 e-Sports event, the FUT Champions Cup, which took place on 27-28 January 2018 at the Palau Sant Jordi with a prize of $22,000 for the champion.
It is necessary to highlight indicators of potential growth in Spain, such as the fact that the three largest telecommunications operators (Orange, Vodafone and Movistar) have entered the sector. There is the so-called ‘Professional Video Game League’, which holds annual events such as Barcelona Games World, Gaming Experience in Madrid, among others; top-level brands have entered to sponsor competitions or national teams, sports newspapers have an “e-Sports” section in their online edition and television channels such as MTV, Neox and Gol have had “e-Sports” content in their broadcasts.
There are already several traditional sportsmen who have invested in the “e-Sports” as Gerard Piqué who announced eFootball.Pro, a company that has reached an agreement with the Japanese company Konami to create a competition of electronic sports, an international league and online, as well as, Fernando Alonso who will have his own team of “e-Sports” called FA Racing-G2 Logitech. Also, football clubs like Valencia, PSG and Schalke 04 or basketball clubs like Baskonia have decided to integrate into its structure “e-Sports” teams.
This new growing sector needs specialized legal advice, among others, in the negotiation of sponsorship contracts, relationship between clubs and players. Intellectual property in relation to video games with their corresponding exploitation and audiovisual rights must also be taken into account.