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Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike Conduct in eSports

Amidst the (emotional) intensity of competitive gameplay and the eager pursuit of victory, instances of unsportsmanlike conduct occasionally emerge in the realm of esports, casting shadows over the spirit of sport integrity and fair play.

The CAS (see Wiki entry on TAS/CAS) summarised the core principles of sport in a very clear way:

The very essence of sport is that competition is fair; its attraction to spectators is the unpredictability of its outcome.[1]

Just like in regular sport, sportsmanship plays a pivotal role in the competitive realm of esports. Upholding the integrity of esports rules is of the essence as rules regulate competition and the business itself. Companies must address integrity risks in order to protect their investment and avoid liability. In addition, any support by governments or sports association will require a high grade of integrity.

Definition and Scope

Unsportsmanlike conduct in esports encompasses a broad spectrum of behaviors that deviate from the expected standards of sportsmanship. These behaviors may include, but are not limited to:

  • Disrespectful or offensive language: This includes taunting and trash talk aimed at undermining the opponent’s morale. Trash talk is considered part of the game to a certain degree. However, utilization of offensive language, harassment, or abusive / discriminatory messages towards opponents, teammates, or officials are not tolerated at all.
  • Cheating and Exploitation: Employing unauthorized software, exploits, or glitches to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.
  • Intentional Feeding and Throwing: Deliberately underperforming or sabotaging gameplay to detrimentally affect team performance (often occurs in cases of match-fixing and betting fraud).
  • Stalling and Time-Wasting Tactics: Engaging in tactics solely intended to prolong matches or delay friends and foes alike.
  • Unsportsmanlike Emotes and Gestures: Utilizing in-game emotes, gestures, or sprays in a disrespectful or provocative manner, in particular by spamming.
  • Omission of proper respect for opponent: There are sore losers in esports just as in any other competition. It is deemed unsportsmanlike to no show the proper respect vis-à-vis opponents in case of defeat.

Impact on the eSports Ecosystem

The prevalence of unsportsmanlike conduct can have profound impact on the esports ecosystem:

  • Detrimental to Player Experience: Instances of unsportsmanlike conduct can create toxic environments detrimental to the competitive scene but also to the joy of fans and spectators. The esports ecosystem may only thrive in case of authenticity, convincing credibility and popularity.
  • Loss of Trust: Unsportsmanlike conduct undermines the integrity of esports competitions. Without trust in the fairness and legitimacy of outcomes, investors will be reluctant to provide necessary funds.
  • Negative Perception: Publicized incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct can tarnish the reputation of esports as a whole, reinforcing negative stereotypes and perceptions.
  • Deterrent to Newcomers: The prevalence of unsportsmanlike conduct may deter new players and fans alike from joining the esports ecosystem, impeding its growth and diversity.

Addressing Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Combatting unsportsmanlike conduct requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders within the esports ecosystem:

  • Reliable Enforcement of Codes of Conduct: Esports organizations and tournament organizers must establish and enforce clear codes of conduct that outline expectations for player behavior. The Esports Integrity Commission provides broad codes of conduct and even operates as sanctioning authority.
  • Education and Awareness: Promoting education is essential to raise awareness within the esports ecosystem. This is even more important considering that most esports enthusiasts are underage or at least rather young (and inexperienced).
  • Reporting and Accountability Mechanisms: Implementing robust reporting and whistleblower mechanisms.
  • Positive Role Modeling: Prominent figures within the esports industry, including players, coaches, and content creators, should lead by example, demonstrating sportsmanship and respect in their interactions.
  • Community Moderation.

[1]              Court of arbitration for sport (2011), CAS 2010/A/2172, Oleg Oriekhov v. UEFA, marginal 78.


  • 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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