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E-sport and the EU: the view from the English Bridge Union

Abstract

The change that e-sport is going through and the ever-ascending trajectory of e-sport has led to certain states to regulate this mode of entertainment. States like South Korea and China have taken one-step further and recognised e-sport as sport. This article deals with the question of recognition of e-sport by the European Union as sport. In that, characteristics of e-sport vis-à-vis mainstream sports will be analysed alongside the relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The physical element and social function of sport which have come to the forefront in case law and academic debates are relevant to the question of e-sport’s status as a sport. Moving on from that premise, the article will conclude that while e-sport may satisfy the physical element in certain play modes, its currently weak social function would render it as just an economic activity in the eyes of the European Union. Nevertheless, particularities of e-sport due to its virtual element, intellectual property-based means of production and diversified means of playing should be taken into account when the time comes for a definite judgement on e-sport’s status as sport.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Weatherill (2003, p. 73).

  2. 2.

    Kelly and Sigmon (2018, p. 3).

  3. 3.

    IOC, 28 October 2017, Communique of the Olympic Summit. https://www.olympic.org/news/communique-of-the-olympic-summit. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  4. 4.

    See generally Borowy and Jin (2013).

  5. 5.

    Case C-90/16 The English Bridge Union v. Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs [2017] ECLI:EU:C:2017:814.

  6. 6.

    ‘eSports’, ‘esport’, ‘E-sports’ and ‘e-Sports’ have all been utilised in various documents and academic papers. This article opts for ‘e-sport’ which is the preferred version in the Oxford Dictionary.

  7. 7.

    Wagner (2006, p. 4).

  8. 8.

    Marcano (2016, p. 116).

  9. 9.

    Rosell (2017, p. 467).

  10. 10.

    Jenny et al. (2018, p. 35).

  11. 11.

    Karhulahti (2017, p. 45).

  12. 12.

    Jin (2010, p. 63).

  13. 13.

    FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, 2018 (June) Edition, Article 2.

  14. 14.

    Koller (2010, p. 573).

  15. 15.

    Abanazir (2018, p. 5).

  16. 16.

    Rosell (2017, p. 467).

  17. 17.

    Johnson (2016, pp. 25–28).

  18. 18.

    Abanazir (2018, p. 9).

  19. 19.

    Adamus (2012, p. 481).

  20. 20.

    Karhulahti (2017, p. 47).

  21. 21.

    Abanazir (2018, pp. 5–6).

  22. 22.

    Case AT.40208 International Skating Union [2018] reported online, paras 3 and 22.

  23. 23.

    FIFA eWorld Cup Website, n.d., http://www.fifa.com/fifaeworldcup/index.html. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  24. 24.

    NBA 2K League Website, n.d., https://2kleague.nba.com/. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  25. 25.

    Slitherine Software Forum, Panzer Corps 2017 Multiplayer Championship! 2017, http://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=77555. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  26. 26.

    Slitherine Software Forum, Panzer Corps 2017 Multiplayer Championship!, 2017, p. 17, http://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=77555&start=320. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  27. 27.

    Schauer (1991, pp. 36–37).

  28. 28.

    Jonasson and Thiborg (2010, p. 292).

  29. 29.

    Taylor (2012, p. 25).

  30. 30.

    LOI n° 2016-1321 du 7 octobre 2016 pour une République numérique, Articles 101 and 102. https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/loi/2016/10/7/ECFI1524250L/jo/texte. Accessed 04 September 2018.

  31. 31.

    Décret n° 2017-871 du 9 mai 2017 relatif à l'organisation des compétitions de jeux vidéo.https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do;jsessionid=16B34529065DFBD90EA93300D5E5C8C6.tpdila10v_3?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000034633551&dateTexte=&oldAction=rechJO&categorieLien=id&idJO=JORFCONT000034630664. Accessed 04 September 2018; Décret n° 2017-872 du 9 mai 2017 relatif au statut des joueurs professionnels salariés de jeux vidéo compétitifs.https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do;jsessionid=BD1BEE324F0ED15F88A383042DC06E65.tplgfr31s_3?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000034633579&dateTexte=20170510. Accessed 04 September 2018.

  32. 32.

    Tong (2017, pp. 351–352).

  33. 33.

    Case C-519/04 David Meca-Medina and Igor Majcen v. Commission of the European Communities [2006] ECR I-6991, paras 22–28.

  34. 34.

    Joined Cases C-51/96 & C-191/97 Deliege v. Ligue de Judo [2000] ECR 1-2549 paras 46–53.

  35. 35.

    European Commission, June 2016, Mapping and analysis of the Specificity of Sport: A Final Report to the DG Education & Culture of the European Commission, p. 3. http://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/sport/library/studies/mapping-analysis-specificity-sport_en.pdf. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  36. 36.

    It should also be kept in mind that an elaboration upon e-sport’s particular nature with respect to industries other than modern sport is also on the cards. However, that analysis would be better left to academics who have specialised in Sports Economics.

  37. 37.

    Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, n.d., Creative Europe—MEDIA—Development of European Video Games. https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/creative-europe/actions/media/development-video-games_en. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  38. 38.

    Case C-90/16 The English Bridge Union v. HMRC, paras 2–8.

  39. 39.

    Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value-added tax.

  40. 40.

    Case C-90/16 The English Bridge Union v. HMRC, para 27.

  41. 41.

    Ibid. para 25.

  42. 42.

    Ibid. para 28.

  43. 43.

    Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (92) 13 REV of The Committee of Minısters to Member States on the Revised European Sports Charter, Article 2(1)(a). https://rm.coe.int/16804cf400. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  44. 44.

    van Hilvoorde and Pot (2016, p. 17).

  45. 45.

    Witkowski (2012, pp. 355–356).

  46. 46.

    For a breakdown of different tests in determining whether an activity is a sport and their application to e-sport see Holden et al. (2017).

  47. 47.

    Rowe (2004, p. 12).

  48. 48.

    Bell (1987, p. 3).

  49. 49.

    Jenny et al. (2016, pp. 9–10).

  50. 50.

    Funk et al. (2018, p. 9).

  51. 51.

    Ibid. and Jenny et al. (2016, p. 10).

  52. 52.

    Witkowski (2012, pp. 369–370).

  53. 53.

    Parry (2018, p. 7).

  54. 54.

    Ibid.

  55. 55.

    Ibid. p. 10 and Holt (2016, pp. 8–9 and 12).

  56. 56.

    Boyle et al. (2012, p. 775).

  57. 57.

    Holt (2016, p. 8).

  58. 58.

    Hemphill (2005, p. 199).

  59. 59.

    ‘In view of the considerable social importance of sporting activities and in particular football in the Community, the aims […] of encouraging the recruitment and training of young players must be accepted as legitimate’. Case C-415/93 Union royale belge des sociétés de football association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman, Royal club liégeois SA v Jean-Marc Bosman and others and Union des associations européennes de football (UEFA) v Jean-Marc Bosman [1995] ECR I-4921, para 106.

  60. 60.

    Case C-325 Olympique Lyonnais v Olivier Bernard and Newcastle United [2010] ECR I-2196, paras 39–45.

  61. 61.

    Pijetlovic (2017, pp. 93–94).

  62. 62.

    European Commission, 1999, ‘The Helsinki Report on Sport’ COM (1999) 644. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:1999:0644:FIN:EN:PDF. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  63. 63.

    European Council, 2000, Declaration on the Specific Characteristics of Sport and its Social Function in Europe, of which Account Should be Taken in Implementing Common Policies’, Presidency Conclusions following the Nice European Council Meeting of 7, 8 and 9 December 2000, Annex IV para 8. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/summits/nice2_en.htm. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  64. 64.

    Commission of the European Communities, 1998, The Development and Prospects for Community Action in the Field of Sport, DG X, Brussels, p. 6. http://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/sport/library/documents/doc252_en.pdf. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  65. 65.

    Parrish (2011, p. 219).

  66. 66.

    Parrish (2003, p. 164).

  67. 67.

    Weatherill gives the example of the universities and supermarkets as institutions training young people but not being treated as ‘special’ (Weatherill 2010, pp. 489–490). For a similar comment regarding the interpretation of the reasoning within the context of other industries see Lindholm (2010, pp. 1193–1194). This situation also prevails in Bosman. Weatherill (2003, p. 71).

  68. 68.

    AG Szpunar Opinion in Case C-90/16 The English Bridge Union v. HMRC, para 42.

  69. 69.

    Ibid. para 38.

  70. 70.

    It has to be pointed out that the SportAccord definition as referred to by the Advocate General in footnote 42 of the Opinion cannot be accessed. SportAccord was renamed Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), and a definition of sport was not found by the author either in the body’s website or its publicly available official documents. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the reference by the Opinion made this subject a part of the debate, the fact that it cannot currently be found should not pose an obstacle for its examination.

  71. 71.

    Karhulahti (2017, p. 50).

  72. 72.

    Case C-18/12 Město Žamberk v. Finanční ředitelství v Hradci Králové [2013] ECLI:EU:C:2013:95, para 22.

  73. 73.

    Weatherill (2017, p. 132).

  74. 74.

    Gleaves and Llewellyn (2014, pp. 7–8).

  75. 75.

    Adams and Piekarz (2015, p. 225).

  76. 76.

    Jenny et al. (2018, p. 36).

  77. 77.

    Case C-18/12 Město Žamberk, par 23.

  78. 78.

    US Army Website, America's Army: Proving Grounds launches on Steam, 7 October 2015, https://www.army.mil/article/156455/americas_army_proving_grounds_launches_on_steam. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  79. 79.

    Crogan (2011, p. 112).

  80. 80.

    Squire (2011, p. 131).

  81. 81.

    van Hilvoorde and Pot (2016, p. 22).

  82. 82.

    Trepte et al. (2012, pp. 835–837).

  83. 83.

    Gunter (2016, pp. 150–152).

  84. 84.

    See Gunter’s review of meta-analyses on the subject. Ibid. pp. 239–257.

  85. 85.

    World Health Organization Website, January 2018, Gaming disorder—Online Q&A http://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/. Accessed 09 September 2018.

  86. 86.

    Trepte et al. (2012, p. 832).

  87. 87.

    In the video game Ethnic Cleansing, the players’ goal is to ‘cleanse’ non-whites as a Klansman or a skinhead (Gee 2004, p. 199). Klevjer and Hovden (2017) found ‘a strong direct association between gender and gaming frequency’.

  88. 88.

    Peterson L, Why aren’t more black kids going pro in e-sport?, 27 March 2018, https://theundefeated.com/features/why-arent-more-black-kids-going-pro-in-e-sport/. Accessed 04 September 2018; Heere (2018, p. 23).

  89. 89.

    Holden et al. (2018, pp. 3–4).

  90. 90.

    UEFA Appeals Body Decision of 9 August 2012 against the Football Union of Russia.

  91. 91.

    ‘FIFA maintains that it is of the firm opinion that shouting any words or expressions associated with Nazism or fascism, especially in a football stadium filled with people, including children, does not only represent an infringement of the relevant FIFA regulations (in particular article 58(1)(a) of the FIFA DC), but is also a horrifying remembrance, for those who have lived through that troubling time, a dark episode in our history that nobody should be proud of, much less so mention or even promote. This kind of behaviour is shameful, revolting and represents an intolerable attitude’. CAS 2014/A/3562 Josip Simunic v. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), award of 29 July 2014 (operative part of 12 May 2014), para 112.

  92. 92.

    Dimitrakopoulos (2006, p. 564).

  93. 93.

    Parry (2018, pp. 12–13).

  94. 94.

    COM (2007) 391 final, pp. 13–14.

  95. 95.

    Hutchins (2008, pp. 857 and 862).

  96. 96.

    Forster (2006, p. 80).

  97. 97.

    ESL Website, ESL aligns with ESIC’s recommendation on sanctions for cheating in esports, 24 July 2017, https://www.eslgaming.com/article/esl-aligns-esic-s-recommendation-sanctions-cheating-esports-3641. Accessed 23 October 2018.

  98. 98.

    Esports Integrity Coalition Website, Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) Announces 5 Year Ban for Player Nikhil “Forsaken” Kumawat for Cheating, 24 October 2018, https://www.esportsintegrity.com/2018/10/esports-integrity-coalition-esic-announces-5-year-ban-for-player-nikhil-forsaken-kumawat-for-cheating/. Accessed 25 October 2018.

  99. 99.

    Intel Website, Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang: Stunning Finale Concludes Historic Esports Event Ahead of the Olympic Winter Games 2018, 7 February 2018, https://newsroom.intel.com/news/intel-extreme-masters-pyeongchang-stunning-finale-concludes-historic-esports-event-ahead-olympic-winter-games-2018/. Accessed 25 October 2018; Polygon Website, One of esports’ top female players breaks new ground at StarCraft 2 tournament, 7 February 2018, https://www.polygon.com/2018/2/7/16987076/iem-2018-sc2-winner-scarlett. Accessed 25 October 2018.

  100. 100.

    IOC, 28 October 2017, Communique of the Olympic Summit.

  101. 101.

    The Esports Observer Website, Esports Medal Inclusion for 2022 Asian Games Put on Hold, 21 August 2018, https://esportsobserver.com/esports-asian-games-medals-on-hold. Accessed 23 October 2018.

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Abanazir, C. E-sport and the EU: the view from the English Bridge Union. Int Sports Law J 18, 102–113 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40318-018-0139-6

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Keywords

  • E-sport
  • Elements of sport
  • Physical element
  • Social function