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Poaching

Poaching – Esports poaching refers to the unethical recruitment of players who are still under contract with another organization. This can involve direct contact with the player, negotiations without the current team’s knowledge, or even offering lucrative incentives to break their existing contractual obligations. This practice, akin to its counterpart in traditional sports, has raised significant legal and ethical considerations within the esports industry.

About poaching

There are several reasons why organizations might resort to poaching:

  • Acquiring top talent: Landing a star player can instantly boost a team’s competitive edge and championship aspirations.
  • Disrupting rivals: Weakening a competitor by taking away their key players can be a strategic coup.
  • Generating buzz: A high-profile poaching can attract attention and media coverage, raising the organization’s profile.

While the potential benefits are tempting, poaching comes with its fair share of downsides:

  • Contractual disputes: Legal battles and hefty compensation fees can result from poaching attempts, leading to financial losses and reputational damage.
  • Player instability: The uncertainty created by poaching can destabilize teams and hinder their performance.
  • Esports ecosystem disruption: Unfair player movement can create an uneven playing field and discourage fair competition.
  • Respect for contracts: Players and organizations deserve to have their agreements honored, and poaching undermines the sanctity of contracts.
  • Immaterial Loss: Poaching can also cause immaterial losses to the original organization. They invest resources in training and developing players, and build their reputation. If a player is poached without proper communication or compensation, the original organization loses the potential return on their investment.

Legal Landscape

Esports contracts often include clauses addressing player transfers and recruitment to mitigate the risks associated with poaching. However, the legalities surrounding poaching can vary based on jurisdiction and the specific terms outlined in player contracts. In specific cases, the developer may even step in. As an example, Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, has implemented its own measures to combat poaching.[1] The company made it mandatory to submit all player contracts to Riot for approval. Riot then has the authority to intervene in player transfers and can penalize organizations involved in unethical recruitment practices. Indonesia’s esports governing body, PB ESI, has implemented specific countermeasures against poaching through the enactment of a transfer window for esports players.[2] This window establishes a designated period during which player transfers can officially occur, aiming to bring greater structure and control to player movement within the Indonesian esports scene.

Case Study

BOOM Esports and Bigetron Esports vs Team NXL

In 2021, a poaching controversy unfolded involving BOOM Esports (BOOM) and Bigetron Esports (BTR) against Team NXL in the Indonesian Valorant scene.[3] Allegations of poaching of NXL’s players prompted legal action. NXL issued warning letters, challenging assumptions of poaching, leading to written responses from BOOM and BTR. Amid the dispute, evidence surfaced, with NXL accused of violating privacy by obtaining screenshots from private Discord channels. BOOM and BTR sent warning letters seeking resolution. In the end, the allegations were proven false as NXL had no grounds to claim that poaching had taken place based on the understanding of poaching, and no further legal action was taken.

Poaching remains a complex issue in esports, with no easy answers. While some argue that it’s simply a part of a free market system, others believe it undermines the integrity of competition and harms the overall esports ecosystem. Finding a balance between player agency, fair competition, and ethical business practices will be crucial for the long-term development of esports.

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[1] Riot Games, ‘Interregional Anti-Poaching & Anti-Tampering Policy’ (10 June 2015) <https://nexus.leagueoflegends.com/en-us/2015/06/interregional-anti-poaching-anti-tampering-policy/> accessed 17 January 2024

[2] Esports Federation of Indonesia (PB ESI), ‘Implementation of Esports Activities in Indonesia’ (Regulation No. 034/PB-ESI/B/VI/2021, 1 June 2021) art 11.

[3] TMosura, ‘NXL face legal challenges from BOOM, Bigetron’ VLR.GG (9 June 2021) <https://www.vlr.gg/21928/nxl-face-legal-challenges-from-boom-bigetron> accessed 18 January 2024.

Author

  • Yudistira Adipratama

    Yudistira Adipratama is the Managing Partner of K-CASE Lawyer, the first esports dedicated law firm in Indonesia. K-CASE Lawyer has worked with and provided legal consultation to various esports stakeholders in Indonesia, including game publishers, esports clubs, event organizers, streamers, game associations, government, and universities. Yudistira holds a key position in the policy-making process of the esports parent organization in Indonesia. He was involved in the drafting of Law No. 11 of 2022 on Sports, which recognizes esports as a competitive sport for the first time in Indonesian history. Yudistira is also the drafter of PBESI Regulation No. 034/PB-ESI/B/VI/2021 on the Implementation of Esports Activities in Indonesia, a policy that regulates the implementation of the esports industry ecosystem in Indonesia. His expertise in law and the esports industry also led him to be involved in the drafting of Presidential Regulation No. 19 of 2024 on the Acceleration of the Development of the National Game Industry. In addition to esports, Yudistira also has a deep understanding of sports law and actively serves as a speaker representing Indonesia at various high-level international conferences attended by representatives of the International Olympic Committee. Under his leadership, K-CASE Lawyer has supported Indonesia’s participation in various international multi-sports events, such as the 19th Asian Games in 2022, the 2023 SEA Games, and the 14th IESF World Esports Championships.

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