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The Twisty Turnaround of F1 Esports 2023 – What Went Down and How It’s Getting Back on Track

In November 2023, the F1 Esports 2023 season embarked on what was anticipated to be a groundbreaking journey, only to encounter an unforeseen hiatus post its inaugural race. This article endeavors to dissect the multifaceted reasons behind the season’s temporary derailment, the legal intricacies involved, and the strategic maneuvers adopted for its resumption.

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F1 Esports 2023

The Preliminary Checkered Flag

The commencement of the F1 Esports 2023 season was met with considerable enthusiasm, underscored by Thomas Ronhaar‘s triumph in the initial race. However, the expected continuation in mid-December 2023 failed to materialize, leading to a period of unsettling silence from the organizing entities. This pause raised numerous questions regarding the sustainability and governance of esports tournaments.

The Core of the Controversy

Central to the cessation was a disagreement between Formula 1, the participating teams, and the mandated sponsorship conditions by Fanatec. The stipulation necessitated the display of Fanatec’s equipment in all team-related content, a directive that did not sit well with various stakeholders. The resultant financial discontent, primarily around the non-reimbursement of travel expenses, showed the underlying contractual and sponsorship dilemmas plaguing the esports domain.

This legal scenario shows the critical importance of robust, transparent contractual agreements in esports. It highlights the potential pitfalls of sponsorship agreements that may not fully align with the interests or expectations of all involved parties. Furthermore, it underscores the necessity for clear communication channels and dispute resolution mechanisms within the contractual framework to preemptively address and mitigate such impasses.

Strategies for Resurgence

In response to the hiatus, a restructured calendar was unveiled in April 2024, signaling a strategic pivot aimed at cost optimization and operational efficiency. This adaptive approach not only facilitated the season’s continuation but also prompted a broader reflection on the operational and legal frameworks governing esports tournaments.

The F1 Esports 2023 episode should be a case study for the esports industry, emphasizing the need for:

  • Comprehensive and flexible legal agreements that account for the dynamic nature of esports.
  • Enhanced clarity in sponsorship deals to ensure mutual understanding and expectations.
  • Proactive engagement with regulatory challenges and the adoption of best practices for dispute resolution.

Conclusion

The suspension of the F1 Esports 2023 season highlights the complex legal and operational obstacles found within the esports industry. As the field progresses, stakeholders must create a legal and regulatory framework that promotes sustainable growth, encourages innovation, and upholds the integrity of competitive esports.

Image source: Racefans.net

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Author

  • Leonid Shmatenko

    Leonid Shmatenko is part of Eversheds Sutherlands’ data protection and technology law team. He has vast experience in regulatory and general issues in the areas of eSports and Blockchain. He advises eSports associations and clubs on all legal issues, advises and supports crypto startups in all matters from planning, preparation to execution of private and public token offerings (so-called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs). Furthermore, Leonid Shmatenko specializes in international arbitration and has participated in several arbitration proceedings (SAC, ICC, DIS, UNCITRAL, ICSID, ad hoc) as a party representative and secretary of the tribunal. Leonid Shmatenko studied at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and is currently pursuing a PhD in international law. After his successful first state examination (2011), he completed his legal clerkship, inter alia, at the German Embassy in Lima and within international law firms in Düsseldorf and Paris. He passed the second state examination in 2015. He is an external lecturer at the National Law University of Ukraine “Yaroslav Mudryi”, where he teaches International Investment Law. He is admitted to the Bar in Switzerland and Germany. Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Leonid Shmatenko worked as an attorney at leading law firms in Geneva, Munich and Paris.

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Takaze’s Take: Free the Agents – Sexism and Misogyny in the Esports Business

This new format of an article (Takaze’s Take) explains how an eathlete can file a discrimination lawsuit in the USA. This article also discusses women in sports.

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Takaze's Take: Free the Agents

On 28 February 2024, Josefine Jensen, a member of Astralis’ Women’s Counter-Strike team, took a stand. She Xed a letter to Valve Corporation, demanding a change in their business practices. Specifically, she urged them to make female agent skins free to use in Counter-Strike. This issue, she believes, is not just about Skins but about the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny that pervades the esports industry. 

The esports world has a rich history of mistreating women.[1] However, women in America do have a way to counterattack. For example, suppose the misandrist is someone you work with. In that case, you can file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).[2] 

The EEOC enforces “federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.”[3] If you sign and file a Charge of Discrimination, you are “asserting that an employer, union or labor organization engaged in employment discrimination.”[4] You must file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before you can sue your employer for discrimination.

Takaze’s Take

Filing a Charge of Discrimination is not your only option. In fact, as the war against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) intensifies, the EEOC may be unable to protect you. Unfortunately, your enemies intend to compel the EEOC to enforce the status quo.[5] If DEI is important to you, then a showdown with your adversaries may be inevitable. 

Mr. Monopoly’s Wisdom

Your opponents view DEI as a zero-sum game. Fear and insecurities are at the center of the conflict.[6] We ought to celebrate your accomplishments.[7] Instead, your adversaries recognize that these fears and insecurities make their followers susceptible to viewing your success as a threat.[8] Mr. Monopoly can help you understand the schism. Until recently, your enemies owned the entire board. Their rule was ruthless and absolute. Over time, your foes’ forefathers were forced to make half-hearted concessions. Your forebears were given Mediterranean Avenue—Connecticut Avenue. Their adversaries expected them to be content. 

Those whose shoulders you stand upon continued to press the issue. You landed on Atlantic Avenue, and your sights are set on Boardwalk. The last seven to eight years in American politics should have clarified one thing for you: Your enemies consider your desire to own Boardwalk wholly unacceptable. 

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Their Strategy

Your enemies are clever.[9] They copied the tactics of Civil Rights activists.[10] Now, your opponents are erasing them from your history books.[11] Their recent legislative and judicial victories show that your adversaries are reaping the rewards of their efforts.[12] Your enemies likely believe their victory will be absolute if they can expunge the history of your forebears.

The Counter-Strike

The sports and entertainment worlds have not acquiesced to your enemies’ demands.[13] As we enter the next phase of the streaming wars, alienating marginalized groups is a surefire way to lose.[14] You can leverage the pursuit of profits to your advantage. For example, working at the FDIC was a never-ending party until the Wall Street Journal arrived.[15]The author hopes that soon, every woman will feel safe in the workplace. Perhaps your enemies feel secure because the esports world is not mainstream. The author hopes you show them that they are misreading the tea leaves.

The spotlight is shining brightly upon the women’s sports universe. The WNBA and ESPN plan to capitalize on Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese’s fame.[16] The NWSL is expanding.[17] Private equity firms are investing heavily in the sports world.[18] The NFL is arriving fashionably late to the dance, but their dance card is undoubtedly full.[19] The esports world claims to be unhappy with its dependence upon the Saudis, and the business model needs to be tweaked.[20]Investors not chosen by the major sports leagues will need a date. If DEI is important to you, now may be the time to press the issue. 

Advance your token to Boardwalk.

Image source: Netcompany

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[1] Ajay Rose, Inside the World of Female esports: “It’s a Scary Space for Women’, The Athletic (Jul. 23, 2023), https://theathletic.com/4635621/2023/07/23/inside-the-world-of-female-esports/.

[2] Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOChttps://www.eeoc.gov/filing-charge-discrimination (last visited Apr. 7, 2024).  

[3] Overviewhttps://www.eeoc.gov/overview (last visited Apr. 7, 2024). 

[4] Id.

[5] Robert Draper, America First Legal, a Trump-Aligned Group, Is Spoiling for a Fight, N.Y. Times (Mar. 21, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/21/us/politics/stephen-miller-america-first-legal.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare&ugrp=c&pvid=E1F42499-3ECC-4095-9233-0DA8057CA02A&sgrp=c-cb.

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[6] Why Young Men and Women Are Drifting Apart, The Economist (Mar. 13, 2024), https://www.economist.com/international/2024/03/13/why-the-growing-gulf-between-young-men-and-womenMaking Sense of the Gulf Between Young Men and Women, The Economist (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.economist.com/leaders/2024/03/14/making-sense-of-the-gulf-between-young-men-and-women.

[7] Aparna Rae, White Men’s Role in Advancing Equity and Inclusion, Forbes (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnarae/2024/03/14/white-mens-role-in-advancing-equity-and-inclusion/?sh=6f4d22b85b5f.

[8] Nicquel Terry Ellis & Catherine Thorbecke, DEI Efforts are Under Siege. Here’s What Experts Say is at Stake, CNN (Jan. 11, 2024), https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/07/us/dei-attacks-experts-warn-of-consequences-reaj/index.html.

[9] Nicholas Confessore, ‘America is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/01/20/us/dei-woke-claremont-institute.html; Meg Little Reilly, Anti-DEI Bills Rely on Vague Language and Self-Censorship, Forbes (Mar. 5, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/meglittlereilly/2024/03/05/anti-dei-bills-rely-on-vague-language-and-self-censorship/?sh=75b5535b1742.

[10] James Devitt, Bayard Rustin’s Blueprint for Activism—and Perhaps Progresshttps://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2023/august/bayard-rustin-s-blueprint-for-activism-and-perhaps-progress.html (last visited Apr. 7, 2024); Adam Gopnik, Eclipsed in His Era, Bayard Rustin Gets to Shine in Ours, The New Yorker (Nov. 6, 2023), https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/11/13/eclipsed-in-his-era-bayard-rustin-gets-to-shine-in-ours.

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[11] Taifa Natalee Alexander, Tracking the Attack on Critical Race Theory in Education, U.S. News (Apr. 11, 2023), https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2023-04-11/tracking-the-attack-on-critical-race-theory-in-education;  Daniel Golden, Muzzled by DeSantis, Critical Race Theory Professors Cancel Courses or Modify Their Teaching, ProPublica (Jan. 3, 2023), https://www.propublica.org/article/desantis-critical-race-theory-florida-college-professors; Myles Hollingsworth, AP African American Studies and Critical Race Theory Ban in Florida, The Crisis (July 24, 2023), https://naacp.org/articles/ap-african-american-studies-and-critical-race-theory-ban-florida;  David Bernstein, Is Opposition to Critical Race Theory Correlated With Ignorance of Critical Race Theory?, Reason (Apr. 2, 2024), https://apple.news/AQmeDx-k2Te6xfEP5a69ndg.

[12] Jeff Green & Simone Foxman, Why Corporate America Has a Diversity Problem, Bloomberg (Mar. 14, 2024), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-14/video-why-corporate-america-has-a-diversity-problem.

[13] Bill King, The Pushback on DEI, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 11, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/11/dei-pushback; Jeremy W. Peters & Brooks Barnes, The Oscars Now Have D.E.I. Rules, But Some Say It’s Just a Performance, N.Y. Times (Mar. 10, 2024), https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/08/us/oscars-oppenheimer-dei-diversity.html.

[14] Dr. Darnell Hunt & Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon, Diverse Audiences Prop Up A Struggling Theatrical Industry and Demand Diversity on Screen, Forbes (Mar. 7, 2024), https://www.forbes.com/sites/drdarnellhuntanddranachristinaramon/2024/03/07/diverse-audiences-prop-up-a-struggling-theatrical-industry-and-demand-diversity-on-screen/?sh=3ff2cb78742d.

[15] Rebecca Ballhaus, ‘What the Hell is Going on at the FDIC?’, The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 10, 2024), https://www.wsj.com/articles/fdic-6d9e8bf1.

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[16] Jacob Feldman, WNBA Has Big Plans to Ride Women’s Basketball Momentum, Sportico (Apr. 4, 2024), https://www.sportico.com/leagues/basketball/2024/caitlin-clark-wnba-momentum-popularity-draft-marketing-1234773879/; Tom Friend, Engelbert: Clark-Reese Could be the New Bird-Magic, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 3, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/03/wnba-cathy-engelbert-caitlin-clark-angel-reese.

[17] Cleveland Soccer Group Announces 12k Season-Ticket Pledges for Possible NWSL Expansion Franchise, Sports Business Journal (Apr. 4, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/04/04/cleveland-ohio-nwsl-expansion-team-bid?hl=NWSL&sc=0&publicationSource=searchNWSL Enters 2024 Campaign with Renewed Hope Amid Offseason Growth, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 15, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/15/nwsl-2024-season-preview?hl=NWSL&sc=0&publicationSource=search.

[18] Arctos Partners Raises $4.1B for Investments in Sports, Sports Business Journal (Apr. 2, 2024), https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/04/02/arctos-partners-deals?hl=private+equity&sc=0&publicationSource=search; Abby Schultz, The Wealthy are Turning to Sports for Diversification, Barron’s (Jan. 2, 2024), https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-wealthy-are-turning-to-sports-for-diversification-9726aaac.

[19] Ben Fischer, Explaining the Caution on Private Equity, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 28, 2024),https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Articles/2024/03/28/explaining-nfl-private-equity-caution?hl=private+equity&sc=0&publicationSource=search.  

[20] Asli Pelit, In Fading Esports Business, Saudi Money Still Flows, Sportico (Mar. 15, 2024), https://www.sportico.com/business/sponsorship/2024/esports-investment-saudi-arabia-1234770868/.

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  • Takaze Turner

    Takaze A. Turner, a distinguished figure at the intersection of entertainment and law, showcases a profound passion for anime, cinema, and gaming. His academic journey commenced at the Ohio State University, where he excelled in English, earning his degree with cum laude honors. Furthering his legal education, Takaze achieved his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri School of Law, before embarking on specialized legal studies. He has since attained an LL.M. in Business Law from Florida State University College of Law and an LL.M. in Entertainment Law from the University of Miami School of Law. Currently, he is enhancing his expertise by pursuing an LL.M. in Taxation Law at the same institution. Takaze’s multifaceted legal education, coupled with his deep-rooted interests in entertainment, positions him uniquely within the legal landscape. His academic accomplishments reflect a dedicated pursuit of knowledge across various sectors of law, particularly those intersecting with the business and entertainment industries. At the core of his professional journey is a commitment to understanding and navigating the complex legalities surrounding entertainment and media, ensuring he remains a pivotal figure in legal discussions related to these dynamic fields. His ongoing pursuit of an LL.M. in Taxation Law further exemplifies his dedication to broadening his legal acumen, underscoring his role as a key contributor to the legal community, especially in areas where law meets entertainment and technology.

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Launch of Deviant Legal: A Law Firm for the Video Game Industry in the Netherlands

Founded by René Otto, a seasoned lawyer with an impressive track record and a deep passion for video games, Deviant Legal emerges as the first full-service law firm in the Netherlands, dedicated exclusively to serving the legal needs of the video game, esports, and content creation sectors.

With its official launch on 10 April 2024, Deviant Legal introduces a new paradigm in legal services, characterized by accessibility, inclusivity, and a profound understanding of the video games industry. Otto’s vision for the firm stems from his belief in the necessity of legal services that are not only of high quality but also personalized to the nuances of the international games and esports ecosystem.

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Rene Otto - Deviant Legal

A Remote-First Approach

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Deviant Legal is its remote-first structure. By embracing remote operations, the firm not only aligns itself with the global nature of the video game industry but also ensures that its services are more accessible and cost-effective for clients. This innovative approach enables Deviant Legal to connect seamlessly with clients and team members around the world, offering flexibility and scalability that traditional law firms struggle to match.

“With Deviant Legal, I believe the legal services provided can be better tailored to the international nature of the games and esports ecosystem. Because of our remote set-up, we are able to connect with clients and team members worldwide. Next to our core team, we work with a network of carefully selected remote (freelance) lawyers, which allows us to scale when needed. While we primarily focus on Dutch & European law first, we will be seriously researching international expansion opportunities.René Otto

Emphasizing Accessibility and Inclusion

Accessibility is at the core of Deviant Legal’s mission. Otto and his team are committed to making legal services approachable for everyone, regardless of their background or financial situation. This commitment extends beyond mere words, as Deviant Legal plans to roll out initiatives aimed at promoting legal access and reducing the intimidation factor often associated with seeking legal counsel.

The firm also places a high value on diversity and inclusion, fostering an environment where lawyers can be their authentic selves. This philosophy not only enriches the firm’s culture but also positions it as a desirable destination for talented legal professionals who may feel out of place in more traditional settings. René Otto states:

“One of the core values of Deviant Legal is accessibility and inclusion. I believe that everyone should have access to a lawyer. We will announce some initiatives to promote that relatively soon. Additionally, accessibility means that lawyers should be way more approachable than they are currently. As a result, we work with authentic lawyers which are ‘down-to-earth’ and who ‘come as they are’. This does not only provide value for clients, but also for the legal profession itself. On a daily basis, I meet lawyers who love their work as a lawyer, but do not feel at home at the culture of the legal profession. This is a shame as it leads to an ongoing and unneeded brain drain. By giving these lawyers who do not adhere to the norm a place to call home, I believe Deviant Legal will win the war on talent”.

A Firm to Watch

The unique approach and specialized focus of Deviant Legal have not gone unnoticed. The firm has been highlighted by the prestigious international ranking LEGAL 500 as a “firm to watch,” and its founder, René Otto, has been named a “Next Generation Partner.”

René Otto’s journey from Van Iersel Luchtman advocaten to establishing Deviant Legal showcases that there is need for a dedicated full service boutique servicing the video game industry. René Otto also holds roles as a board member of Breda Game City and an ambassador for Women in Games.

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  • Leonid Shmatenko

    Leonid Shmatenko is part of Eversheds Sutherlands’ data protection and technology law team. He has vast experience in regulatory and general issues in the areas of eSports and Blockchain. He advises eSports associations and clubs on all legal issues, advises and supports crypto startups in all matters from planning, preparation to execution of private and public token offerings (so-called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs). Furthermore, Leonid Shmatenko specializes in international arbitration and has participated in several arbitration proceedings (SAC, ICC, DIS, UNCITRAL, ICSID, ad hoc) as a party representative and secretary of the tribunal. Leonid Shmatenko studied at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and is currently pursuing a PhD in international law. After his successful first state examination (2011), he completed his legal clerkship, inter alia, at the German Embassy in Lima and within international law firms in Düsseldorf and Paris. He passed the second state examination in 2015. He is an external lecturer at the National Law University of Ukraine “Yaroslav Mudryi”, where he teaches International Investment Law. He is admitted to the Bar in Switzerland and Germany. Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Leonid Shmatenko worked as an attorney at leading law firms in Geneva, Munich and Paris.

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German Law: Is there a Legal Definition of “Esports” and is Esports Sports?

To address the legal question raised, it is essential to find a definition of “esports” in the law, if there is any.

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Is Esports Sports ELN

Introduction and Definition

In Germany, the term “esports” is not clearly defined by law. It is mentioned sporadically in legal texts such as Section 15 of the RennwLottDV  (Execution Ordinance to the Racing Betting and Lotteries Act):

“Chess and competitions between people with the aid of computer games, such as esports, are deemed to be sport within the meaning of paragraph 2.”

and Section 22 No. 5 of the BeschV:

“Persons who practise esports in the form of a competition between persons on a professional basis and whose involvement in German eSports clubs or comparable organisations participating in competitions is intended, if they:

[…]

c) the German umbrella organisation responsible for esports confirms the professional practice of esports and the form of eSports practised is of significant national or international importance, […]”

Although it is often used as an abbreviation for electronic sports, esports, its meaning is not consistently understood due to regulatory factors. It typically means participating in the competitive playing of video or computer games, particularly on computers and consoles, following certain rules. The commonly held belief recognizes three basic components:

■ The physical performance of the player at the input device

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■ In response to the screen content

■ While simultaneously mentally mastering the game’s sequence.1

Esports can be therefore defined as a

“an area of sport activities in which people develop and train mental or physical abilities in the use of information and communication technologies.”2

Although there is largely consensus on this definition, numerous individual questions remain controversial. This is partly due to the diverse nature of computer games that can be part of esports. Regardless, esports should correctly be defined broadly as “competition between people using computer games.”3

Classification of Esports as Sports

There is also a debate about whether esports should be categorized as “traditional sports”. The German Olympic Committee and legal scholars are currently of the opinion that it is not.4

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Defintion of Sports under German law

Similar to esports, sports is a concept that is referenced in multiple laws but lacks a clear legal definition. The only definition can be located in Section 15 para. 2 sentence 1 of the RennwLottDV, specific to the Racing Betting and Lotteries Act and not applicable across the board. A precise definition has not been established by either sports science or legal scholarship. Hence, an interpretation is necessary.

Historical Meaning

The word “sport” comes from the Latin words “disportare” or “deportare,” which mean “to carry away” or “to bring away,” and can be interpreted as “to relax.” Nevertheless, this is not enough to constitute a thorough legal definition.

Sports Science

Sports science has attempted numerous definitions, yet no uniform definition exists.

The now non-existent Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) used a specific definition to recognize sports and their federations, emphasizing a competitive element based on skill, strategy, and physical prowess while excluding luck as a primary factor. The GAISF prioritizes athlete well-being and safety, alongside ethical considerations, including the humane treatment of animals involved in sports. It also mandates that no sport should be dependent on exclusive equipment from a single supplier, promoting fairness and accessibility.

The EU Commission’s White Paper on Sport similarly defines “sport” as

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“all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.”

Thus, although there is no standard definition of sports science, there are shared qualities found in various definitions. The idea of sports is based on physical activity as well as the desire for performance, competition, and comparison.

Legal academic research has also for a long time aimed to determine the meaning of the idea of sports. In legal circles, it is widely agreed that sports encompass all physical activities done for fun, fitness, enjoyment of competition and performance, as well as adherence to rules and organizational structures. The pursuit of excellence is also recognized by legal scholarship as a key feature of sports. In this context, Section 15 para. 2 sentence 1 of the RennwLottDV defines sports, for its purposes, as

“physical exertion by a person or a person together with a trained or conditioned animal, exceeding usual levels, marked by externally observable efforts or by movements attributable to personal skill.”

Conclusion

Important characteristics of the legal idea of sports encompass physical activity, competition or striving for performance, typically accompanied by rules and various organizational structures, and involvement for the sake of enjoyment rather than with a productive motive.

The legal definition of sports closely mirrors the definition in sports science. Both sectors concur that physical activity is typically pursued as a goal in its own right rather than for financial gain. Nevertheless, the different efforts to define sports show that the concept cannot be clearly defined. Due to the absence of defined boundaries for the legal understanding of sports, a typological method is needed. According to definitions in sports science, important characteristics of the legal concept of sports have been recognized, including physical activity, competition or striving for performance, typically with rules and organization, and involvement for its own sake rather than for productivity.

So does Esports qualify as Sports under German law?

Given the context provided and the analysis of both esports and traditional sports under German law, it is apparent that esports aligns with many fundamental characteristics of what constitutes sports. Specifically:

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  • Physical Performance: Both traditional sports and esports involve physical performance, albeit in different forms. For esports, physical performance is demonstrated through the agility and precision required at the input device in response to game dynamics.
  • Competitive Element: Esports fulfills the competitive criterion essential to sports, where individuals or teams compete under a structured set of rules to achieve victory.
  • Regulation and Organization: Similar to traditional sports, esports operates within a framework of rules and is organized into clubs, leagues, and tournaments, indicating a level of formal organization comparable to conventional sports.
  • Skill and Strategy: Just as traditional sports require skill, strategy, and physical prowess (excluding luck as a primary factor), esports demands mental agility, strategic planning, and in-depth knowledge of game mechanics.
  • Physical Fitness and Mental Well-being: The EU Commission’s definition of sports as activities aiming to improve physical fitness and mental well-being can also apply to esports. Although the physical exertion may not be as intense as in traditional sports, the strategic thinking, quick reflexes, and mental stamina required for esports contribute to cognitive abilities and can influence mental well-being.
  • Social Relationships: Participation in esports, like traditional sports, fosters social relationships. Team-based games and the community aspect of esports events create social bonds among players and fans alike.

However, there remains a debate, particularly within bodies like the German Olympic Committee, regarding the categorization of esports as “traditional sports.” This hesitation seems rooted not in the physical versus mental exertion debate but in the historical and cultural recognition of what constitutes a sport.

Given the evolving nature of sports and the inclusion of new disciplines that adapt to technological advancements and changing social dynamics, esports shows considerable overlap with the established criteria defining traditional sports. Despite the current official stance in some quarters, the parallels suggest that esports could be recognized as sports, especially as perceptions and definitions continue to evolve in response to societal changes.

Image source: EScholar

  1. Francken/Nothelfer/Schlotthauer, NZA 2019, 865. ↩︎
  2. Shmatenko, eSports – ‘It’s in the Game’: The Naissance of a new Field of International Arbitration (April 29, 2021). 40 under 40 International Arbitration 2021, González-Bueno, Carlos (ed.), 393-410, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3836741 ↩︎
  3. Nothelfer, LR 2020, 276, 278 ↩︎
  4. Fischer, Rechtsfragen einer Anerkennung des e-Sports als gemeinnützig, 2019, p. 41 ff., and statement by Prof. Dr Carmen Borggrefe and a further 80 sports scientists, https://cdn.dosb.de/UEber_uns/eSport/Stellungnahme-zum-eSport.pdf. ↩︎

Author

  • Leonid Shmatenko

    Leonid Shmatenko is part of Eversheds Sutherlands’ data protection and technology law team. He has vast experience in regulatory and general issues in the areas of eSports and Blockchain. He advises eSports associations and clubs on all legal issues, advises and supports crypto startups in all matters from planning, preparation to execution of private and public token offerings (so-called Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs). Furthermore, Leonid Shmatenko specializes in international arbitration and has participated in several arbitration proceedings (SAC, ICC, DIS, UNCITRAL, ICSID, ad hoc) as a party representative and secretary of the tribunal. Leonid Shmatenko studied at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and is currently pursuing a PhD in international law. After his successful first state examination (2011), he completed his legal clerkship, inter alia, at the German Embassy in Lima and within international law firms in Düsseldorf and Paris. He passed the second state examination in 2015. He is an external lecturer at the National Law University of Ukraine “Yaroslav Mudryi”, where he teaches International Investment Law. He is admitted to the Bar in Switzerland and Germany. Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Leonid Shmatenko worked as an attorney at leading law firms in Geneva, Munich and Paris.

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