Is there a legal route in Europe for esports to be recognised as sports? #LAW


Abanazir, C. (2019). E ‑ sport and the EU : the view from the English Bridge Union. The International Sports Law Journal, 18(3), 102–113.


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.

The Data

Various legal documents from the European Union.


“Physicality in e-sport is a highly debatable subject with no agreement as to whether e-sport satisfies it or not”

“if the physical element includes only real-world moves that have an effect on the real world, then the case for the recognition of e-sport will fail for the foreseeable future.”

“e-sport competitions based on video games created for purely consumption purposes and organised by persons aiming to profit from these activities may find themselves out of the scope as they are perceived to be devoid of social function.”

“e-sport fails to satisfy the social function of sport as defined and perceived by the EU”

“even if the barriers concerning the recognition of e-sport as a sport in the form of its physical element, monopoly in the supply of equipment and social function of sport are overcome by the e-sport industry, the insistence of the relevant institutions on sculpting e-sport according to the pre-set characteristics is a problem in its own regard”

Our Take on it

“Is there a legal route in Europe for esports to be recognised as sports? This article highlights why recognition as sports can afford esports a special status which could be beneficial to its players and so it’s certainly worthy of consideration, although it does not find a compelling case for esports to be treated as sports within European law. It concludes that esports satisfies many of the conditions, but the biggest question mark exists around its social function. If anything, the research evidences the need to identify more stories of how esports make a valuable social contribution, beyond simply being a form of commercial entertainment. If recognised as sports, this may have an impact on such matters as child safe-guarding or athlete travel, for examples. One of the persistent features of this debate is that we have yet to fully appreciate the social value of esports and may not be best advised to judge them by the same criteria as sports. The authors conclude that some European countries are already regulating esports as special activities, even if this is not the same approach it takes with traditional sports. This approach reinforces the belief that many people share that esports are simply an entirely new category of cultural experience, unlike any other kind, including sports” Professor Andy Miah

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