The term eSport, short for electronic sport, is used to identify a competitive and organized game mode, which usually involves individual players or teams who compete through the use of video games on online platforms.
In our Country, the audience of fans of this particular discipline is growing: we are talking about 1.2 million people in the age group between 16 and 30 years, with 350 thousand users following live events every day. Globally, numbers are very different and much more striking: to date there are about 2.5 billion people who own a console and, even sporadically, play video games. Of these, between professional players and amateur practitioners, 450 million users are active daily.
The actors involved
These numbers have led the large international brands, belonging to the most disparate product sectors, even not directly connected to the world of video games, to be more and more attracted to this target market and to make investments, even substantial ones, in the development of the sector.
The main actors of these virtual competitions are the players, the so-called gamers, who through their virtual activity can gain different types of income: incentives for affiliation to specific gaming platforms, percentages from the sale of video games, sponsorships and merchandising.
The constant expansion of the sector, which has passed from a hobby to a global industry with a worldwide turnover of about 1.5 billion dollars, characterized by numerous profiles of legal importance, makes clear the need to fully regulate the sector, starting from the protection of the individual player up to sponsorship and team management.
The sector generates great interest in the international sports federations, the IOC and the national Olympic Committees, with a view to a possible accreditation of eSports as official disciplines.
In fact, by examining the regulatory landscape currently existing in our system and in the EU system, it is possible to observe that the matter of virtual competitions has not yet been the subject of organic regulation.
The absence of a legal recognition, which equates eSports to sports disciplines, prevents them from automatically and analogically applying the rules to which traditional sports are subject; this gives rise to the difficulties encountered in dealing with the problem of doping and, consequently, of sports justice, in relation to virtual competitions, also and above all as regards the phenomenon of the so-called match fixing, essentially consisting in agreeing on the result of matches.
Moving beyond the border, France was, with the issuance of provisions that gave virtual competitions legal recognition, among the first Countries to regulate eSports, in order to protect all the parties involved and promote the proper conduct of competitions, not forgetting the frequent involvement of underage players in these activities. On the one hand, the figure of the pro-player was introduced, identifying the relative labor law treatment, on the other hand, general criteria for organizing competitions were outlined, subject to prior ministerial approval.
The continuing epidemiological emergency which, as already mentioned, is producing further growth in the virtual competition sector, may be the premise for fully regulating this particular industry in our legal system, following the example of what has already happened abroad.
The role of the lawyer
In such a setting, the figure of the lawyer and legal consultant plays an essential role in the relationships between large international brands and gamers or gamer teams.
The legal consultant intervenes in order to avoid that the regulatory gaps negatively affect the protection of the parties involved.
In particular, the aspects on which the utmost attention must be paid are the protection of privacy and intellectual property, sponsorship and collaboration agreements.