HomeInsightsPlayer rights – a claim waiting to happen?

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A career as a pro-gamer was once a pipe dream. These days, it doesn’t seem so crazy. With eSports audience numbers starting to rival traditional sports and prize money soaring to dizzy heights, it’s not surprising that many talented gamers are pursuing the opportunity of turning their childhood dream into a reality. But for many, things aren’t quite as glamourous as they expect.

There is little work-life balance. For example, most players in League of Legends teams reportedly practise upwards of 50 hours per week, some playing every waking minute. Allnighters are also common, particularly in the run up to tournaments. To make matters worse, most players don’t receive a regular salary and get paid nothing unless their team is successful.

So is this lawful? In short, probably not.

If a UK player is personally obliged to practise and compete and cannot fairly be said to be operating their own business (most aren’t) then at the very least they are likely to have the legal status of a ‘worker’. This would entitle them to the minimum wage, rest breaks, paid holiday leave and potentially pension contributions. As the industry grows rapidly, surely an employment tribunal claim can’t be too far away? And that’s before you consider the potential reputational damage such claims could bring which would likely taint publishers, leagues, sponsors and team operators alike.

There are signs some are already addressing these risks. Activision Blizzard, which is launching its first eSports league based around its title, Overwatch, is insisting that players recruited by a team are guaranteed a basic minimum salary and benefits package while some eSports teams are also beginning to offer salaries and contracts to their players. But such approaches are not yet the norm. Until they are, the potential for player rights issues to rear their head will never be far away.