Disciplinary and integrity in esports (Riot Games)

The new Esports Global Code of Conduct of Riot Games provides a very interesting insight into how disciplinary matters are being regulated in the esports ecosystem.

It is not a secret that esports and traditional sports are different animals. Although they are both characterized by their competitive nature, and therefore, the need to train specialized skills, they also have certain differences that require the implementation of their own concrete rules.

However, this does not mean that the younger sibling cannot learn from the development and evolution of the older one to ensure, for example, that it sets up a disciplinary system that will be efficient and operational.

This seems to have been the case with the newest edition of Riot Games’ Esports Global Code of Conduct, which appears to combine an inspiration from the rules existing in traditional sports federations and unique rules applicable to esports.

This comprehensive code applies:

  1. Worldwide to all game titles of Riot Games, which harmonizes, simplifies and codifies the behaviours that are prohibited – and can be punished.  

  1. To all professional and semi-professional players as well as their teams, and key personnel working for them (e.g., coaches, managers, etc.).

Many of the 24 prohibited conducts tend to promote that players participate to the best of their abilities and in a fair manner. Cheating, unauthorized communications, refusals to participate, match-fixing, gambling, forgery, or using prohibited substances resemble common provisions found in traditional sports. However, other provisions such as underperforming, or studio interference appear to be more particular to esports.

Similarly, the prohibition to participate in fantasy esports is tailored to Riot Games’ ecosystem and raises interesting legal questions on the feasibility of prohibiting activities outside of a private company’s realm.

Riot Games has also covered “ethical” conduct like conflicts of interest, threats, bribery, abuse of position, immoral activities, or violations of law that have brought countless disputes in the sphere of traditional sports. By also regulating behaviours like harassment, bullying, and retaliation, Riot Games has set up the basis for a proper safeguarding system in its competitions, getting ahead of many sports federations that are still to regulate these dreadful acts.

The procedural and more “technical” rules also resemble those found in the regulations of many international sports federations. For instance, the duties to report violations and cooperate in investigations clearly intend to compensate the lack of coercive measures that private entities (be it Riot Games or sports federations) have as opposed to public authorities.  

The main differences between these regulations and those found in traditional sports are (i) the absence of an independent body that will be entrusted with the duty to apply the Code of Conduct and (ii) the inexistence of procedural rules ensuring that a due process is followed.

All in all, Riot Games must be commended for implementing this clear set of rules that brings legal certainty to its stakeholders when it comes to identifying which behaviours are not allowed in their competitions. It rests to be seen if their structure will continue to evolve, for example, by thoroughly regulating the disciplinary process that the players will have to follow and, maybe even, to implement an internal appeal procedure that will give them a chance of having their sanctions reviewed before having to resort to ordinary courts or arbitration.

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