When Howard Kennedy recently hosted the latest session for the Sport Industry NextGen Leaders, one topic of conversation caught the attention of all the attendees: esports.
For many, even within the sport industry, esports are a largely unknown quantity but industry leaders are now recognising that this cannot remain the case for long. Certainly, 100 million viewers of the League of Legends World Championship prove that the sector has already become an enticing area for investment. To put this into context, this is the same number of people that tuned into the Super Bowl.
For the uninitiated, esports – an abbreviation of 'electronic sport' – are online multiplayer video game tournaments. Although the first video games were developed in the 1950s, gaming has been mainstream among teenagers since the arcades of the 1970s and home games consoles that hit the market in the 1980s. As those teenagers have grown up and internet connectivity has developed exponentially, millions more have joined the esport revolution.
Yet, from a legal perspective, the regulation of esports remains relatively embryonic due to its fairly recent emergence - particularly when compared to more traditional sports. This presents an exciting opportunity for sports lawyers to become involved in shaping a rapidly emerging sector. Equally, as the size and complexity of the sector increases, esports will undoubtedly require more sophisticated and imaginative legal advice to ensure its continuing success. And as the impact of COVID-19 is felt across the globe, esports will not remain unscathed.
Over the coming weeks, we will examine some of the key areas where the legal issues, and the way in which they develop, will really make a difference to the future of esports. Watch this space for our perspective on the commercial ups and downs of esport, governance and integrity in the industry, the increasing focus on gambling, and what lies ahead for the industry.