EU LCS franchising, free agency and the need for players to be independently advised
News - 13 Nov 2018
Sheridans lawyer Chris Paget writes a guest blog on the upcoming League of Legends EU LCS franchise league, the movement of players from team to team, and the need for players to be properly advised.
The world of League of Legends has been awash with speculation waiting for Riot’s announcement on which teams will be awarded the ten coveted spots in the franchised EU LCS.
While there is still no official date for the Riot announcement, one thing is clear: it’s not far away. What’s also clear is that there will be a hive of activity in the player and coach/manager market, with teams looking to trade, sign or renegotiate with the world’s top LoL talent.
The global free agency date (one of the periods in the year when player transfers can take place) commences on November 19th 2018. Similar to the process that occurred with the NA LCS franchise launch in 2017, there is expected to be a mini free agency period amongst the EU teams for a time, prior to the global free agency date of November 19th. Many teams and players have already taken a proactive approach to planning for future rosters, as seen by a number of high profile player renegotiations.
In anticipation of the impending flurry of activity, it’s more important than ever that players, coaches and managers alike, who may be on the move or in a position to renegotiate, are ready, and are properly advised, both commercially and legally. As salaries and prize money opportunities in the current market increase, so too will the obligations and expectations on the talent being signed by teams.
"In overwhelming numbers, talent are not being independently advised on the contracts they are being asked to sign. In fact, in many respects this is one of the biggest issues in the esports industry."
Indeed, over the past four or so years, I (and the firm I work for, Sheridans) have been privileged to work with a whole of host of high profile players and esports talent across all the major titles, alongside, or on the other side of most of the major teams. While the esports transfer market has undoubtedly become more sophisticated over this period, one overriding and pervasive theme has remained: in overwhelming numbers, talent are not being independently advised on the contracts they are being asked to sign. In fact, in many respects this is one of the biggest issues in the esports industry; and it will be brought into even greater focus with the LoL free agency period just around the corner.
With the ever-increasing professionalism of the elite esports scene, the healthy financial packages being offered (some involving revenue share arrangements on merchandise and complex IP licensing structures), plus the increased realisation from team owners understanding that players hold the key to unlocking significant revenue streams for teams, it has never been more important for talent to be properly and independently advised. And also, for talent to understand what they are signing up for.
Indeed, engaging a specialist, independent esports lawyer will undoubtedly improve the commercial deal placed in front of the talent, reduce the legal and commercial risk that players are increasingly being expected to absorb, while at the same time allowing talent to be represented in a way that saves money on professional fees in the long run (as opposed to typical agency representation fee structures).
While the talent side of the esports market has undoubtedly professionalised over the past few years, there is still a long way to go. Player interests and talent welfare are crucial to the good health of the esports industry going forward, and so it is vital that this area continues to develop and professionalise.
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