Lawyer offers contract advice to amateur UK eSports teams

Sheridans associate solicitor for sports and music, Christopher Paget, has told eSports News UK what smaller eSports organisations should be focusing on when it comes to contracts.

Speaking at the University of Salford's symposium on 'eSports and the Future of Sport' last week, Christopher answered our question at the end of his talk, regarding the actions UK eSports orgs can take as an alternative to costly contracts.

He said: "It's not they don't have the revenues to get a contract with people like us, we do a lot of pro bono [unpaid consultancy] related work, but there's also a lot of things out there you can do. You don't need an eSports specialist to advise on a contractual agreement.

"I suppose the answer to your question is two-fold. One, ask questions and try and seek advice, but the second is look at the ways in which you can monetise what you are doing as an organisation. In traditional sports, the ability to monetise the digital world has never been greater. With streaming there's the opportunity to create revenue streams... that model is not too dissimilar to eSports.

"If there's a following for a game, whether that's 20 people or 100 people or 100,000 people, there is a community that wants to participate in what you are running and what you are involved in. How you get in front of that audience and how you monetise that audience is the golden-ticket question.

"But that's how you do it, you need to find other ways of tapping into your core customer base. Look at Dota, why is the prize money for Dota 2 so much higher than other games? It's because it's crowd-funded. Crowdfunding is systematic within the eSports world and I don't think that just because you're a smaller organisation, that excludes you from being able to tap into that desire [for brands] to be involved in eSports."

 

"Ask questions and try and seek advice; look at the ways in which you can monetise what you are doing as an organisation."

 

He also advised orgs to keep contracts 'as simple as possible', and recognised the need for a transition from amateur through to professional.

But what if an organisation can't afford to enforce their contract, or for example, take a contract breaker to court?

"That comes down to the governance of that eSport," he explained. "What are the options? Even if the option is to go to court, it will cost quite a lot of money, but when better regulations come in, there's a framework, a lot of disputes will get resolved privately, away from the courts.

"Sport is a classic example of that. A lot of sports disputes are resolved through arbitration - that's the binding jurisdiction within the courts, it's English law.

"If you don't go to court, you have to go to an arbitrator. And that is allegedly cheaper, and it is, on the smaller level. Once you start getting into the big ticket stuff, arbitration is not suitable."

Christopher also spoke about the possibility of transfer windows in eSports.

"Other than League of Legends and some of the leagues, there aren't pre-determined or pre-defined transfer windows as there are in traditional sports," he added. "This causes issues within the market, there are transfers happening all the time - it's not uncommon for them to happen mid-competition. This is not ideal.

"Would eSports - each individual title - benefit from having transfer windows. For me, absolutely. It adds security and it also creates a narrative. Brands need this storytelling and so do consumers. And it drives engagement.

"The ability to create narratives around players is something that really drives engagement and benefits all parties concerned."

eSports contracts have been the subject of scrutiny, with journalist Richard Lewis telling eSports News UK earlier this year: "I've literally seen people try and enforce contracts that have no salaries. Good luck with that, by the way.

"I'll tell you this. If you're a player and someone is trying to stop you moving organisations or anything like that based on a contract, which I guarantee will be just a copy and paste from another contract, which was from yet another contract that was badly written... it's bullsh*t and nonsense.

"Do not respect or adhere to that contract whatsoever, because they are not treating you with the respect that would make you want to respect that contract. Tear them up, wipe your arse with them or whatever you need to do. They are not enforceable.

"Orgs, if you want your players to be professional, treat them like professionals."

eSports News UK has been sent several UK org contracts anonymously and the standards of some of them - not to mention some of the demands - have been shocking.

Christopher admitted that some contracts are 'totally unfair'.

"Player power is increasing within the top teams," he said. "And they are pushing for this 'security'. But it kind of works both ways. Teams are more concerned about players moving on to another team, rather than the players being worried that they may get laid off."

 

Christopher Paget is an associate solicitor for sports and music at Sheridans

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