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Cheating in esports and the obligations of employment contracts: A Legal Perspective


Esports is more than just a game – it’s a growing industry that fascinates both players and spectators worldwide. With the rise of Esports, however, come challenges and questions, particularly regarding employment obligations and the legal consequences of cheating. These challenges are relevant not only to the players themselves, but also to the organizations that employ them and the sponsors that support them. In this context, it is important to have a clear understanding of employment obligations and the consequences of cheating in order to maintain the integrity of Esports and ensure fair competition.

This blog post is the result of a recent mandate that prompted me to revisit the issue of cheating in esports and the associated employment obligations. My previous blogposts on this topic, especially on cheating and toxic behavior, are already several years old. The esport industry has evolved since then and new issues and challenges have emerged. So I felt it was time to revisit the topic and share my thoughts and findings. I hope this blog post will be helpful for Esport professionals as well as organizations and sponsors.

Cheating in Esports: A Serious Problem

Cheating in esports is a serious problem that undermines the integrity of the game and the trust of the community. As I’ve written here before, cheating can come in a variety of forms, from the use of unauthorized software to unfair behavior during gameplay. This behavior is not only unethical, but can destroy a player’s career and damage the reputation of the entire organization. That’s why it’s important for everyone involved in esports – from players to teams to organizers – to work together to prevent and combat cheating.

Employment contract obligations and consequences of cheating

Esports professionals are not only players, they are also employees subject to employment contract obligations. These obligations may vary depending on the contract, but they generally include adherence to rules of conduct designed to ensure fair play and integrity in the game. These rules are not only there to ensure fair competition, but also to protect the reputation and standing of the team and the player himself. They are an essential part of professional Esports and help to maintain the trust of fans and sponsors.

Violations of these rules, such as cheating, can have serious consequences. They may result not only in disciplinary action, but also in termination of employment. This can have a significant impact on both the player and the team. For the player, it can mean the end of his career, while the team may lose a valuable player and see its reputation threatened.

In addition, violations of employment contract obligations may also have legal consequences. This can range from claims for damages to criminal sanctions. Claims for damages can be made, for example, if cheating leads to a loss of prize money or sponsorship deals. Criminal sanctions may be considered in particular if the cheating is done using illegal software.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that esports professionals take their employment duties seriously and abide by the rules of fair play. Not only their careers, but the integrity of Esports as a whole depends on it.

The role of sponsorship contracts in esports

Sponsorship deals play an important role in esports, often providing a significant source of revenue for teams and players. As I’ve written here before, these contracts can include a variety of duties and obligations for players, including behavioral clauses that prohibit cheating. These contracts are important not only for the financial stability of the teams and players, but also for maintaining the integrity and reputation of Esports. It is therefore important that these contracts are clear and comprehensive and that they take into account both the interests of the sponsors and the rights and obligations of the players.

The legal classification of esport professionals

The legal classification of esports professionals may vary depending on the actual circumstances. In many cases, they may be considered employees, especially if they are in a directive relationship with their team or clan and have a substantial economic interest in their activities. This means that they not only have a duty to follow their employer’s instructions, but also that they are compensated for their services and that they enjoy a certain level of security and protection.

This classification has important consequences under labor law. For example, the Working Hours Act and the Youth Employment Protection Act also apply to esports professionals. These laws are designed to protect the rights and welfare of workers, and they establish certain standards and requirements that employers must meet. This can be particularly relevant for underage players, as their working hours and conditions are strictly regulated to ensure their health and safety.

In addition, the classification as an employee may also have an impact on the players’ social security obligations and tax treatment. As employees, they are usually required to contribute to social security, which gives them access to certain benefits such as health insurance, pension insurance and unemployment insurance. In terms of taxes, they have to pay income tax on their salary and other income from their activity as an esports professional.

It is therefore important that esports professionals and the organizations that employ them are aware of the legal classification and associated duties and rights. This can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that all parties fulfill their obligations and preserve their rights.

Labor law issues in e-sports

The legal classification of e-sports professionals raises a number of employment law issues. These can range from compliance with working time laws to issues of employment protection. It is important that both players and teams are aware of these issues and take appropriate precautions. This can be achieved through clear and comprehensive employment contracts that take into account the rights and obligations of both parties, as well as compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Temporary employment contracts in e-sports

Due to the high stress of professional computer gaming and the high demands on concentration, skill, endurance, reaction time and hand-eye coordination, the time window within which pro gamers can play at the highest level is likely to be limited to a few years. This is due not only to the physical and mental strain of playing professionally, but also to the constant evolution of games and playing techniques, which require continuous adaptation and a willingness to learn.

Therefore, the question of permissible fixed-term employment relationships also arises in the field of e-sports. This type of contract can be beneficial to both players and teams. For players, they offer the opportunity to flex their careers and take on new challenges, while teams have the ability to adjust their rosters based on player needs and performance.

However, it is important that these contracts comply with legal requirements and that they adequately protect the rights and interests of players. This means that they should contain clear and fair conditions regarding working hours, remuneration and notice periods. They should also include provisions that protect players from unfair practices, such as unreasonable penalties or discrimination.

Ultimately, it’s important that both players and teams understand that an employment contract is more than just a document – it’s an expression of mutual commitments and expectations that lay the foundation for successful collaboration in esports.

Protection against dismissal in e-sports

The termination of employment with a pro-gamer also raises the classic labor law issues. These can range from compliance with notice periods to the conditions for justified termination. It is important that both players and teams understand and consider these issues to ensure that termination of employment is done in a fair and legal manner.

In particular, it is likely to be relevant here to what extent the issuance of an ordinary notice of termination in accordance with the German Dismissal Protection Act (Kündigungsschutzgesetz) can be considered if a sustained drop in performance can be observed in a pro-gamer. This may be the case, for example, if a player is unable to perform at the required level despite repeated requests and support. In such cases, it is important for teams to carefully evaluate the situation and take all necessary steps to preserve the player’s rights while protecting the team’s interests.

In contrast, termination of employment for conduct – up to and including extraordinary termination – may be considered if players violate anti-doping agreements, cheat or engage in other significant misconduct such as repeated rage-quitting, or otherwise significantly damage the reputation of the clan or team. Such violations can not only undermine trust and cooperation within the team, but also damage the reputation of the team and Esports as a whole. Therefore, it is important that such violations are taken seriously and handled appropriately.

It is therefore important that players are aware of their contractual obligations and that they understand the potential consequences of their behavior. This includes not only knowing the rules and regulations, but also understanding how their behavior can affect relationships within the team and the public’s perception of the team. By better understanding these aspects, players can help promote a positive and respectful environment in esports.


With the rapid growth of Esports comes new challenges and questions. It is important that both players and teams are aware of their contractual obligations and the legal consequences of cheating. This is the only way to ensure fair and respectful dealings in esports. In addition, it is important that all stakeholders – from the players to the teams to the sponsors and the organizers – work together to maintain the integrity of Esports and ensure fair competition. Ultimately, a responsible approach to these issues can help establish esports as a professional and respected industry.

I hope this blog post has given a good overview of the topic of cheating in esports and employment obligations. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. It’s a complex topic, but with the right understanding and approach, we can all help make esports fair, exciting and respectful.

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Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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