Esports Officially Legal in France

France FlagEsports are popular throughout the world with hordes of fans, players, and a broad range of teams that compete in various competitions to win the title of the best. Every continent has its leagues and tournaments where teams from different countries participate and fight to qualify for world championship. It can be said that esports have everything that “regular” sports do, transfers, players, managers, fans, and competitions. The question is: why aren’t they recognized as real sports in most countries? The latest news coming from France might change that. This country officially recognized as esports, thus making esports players proper athletes. Keep reading to find out more.

How did it start?

eSports PlayersBack in March this year, it was announced that the French government is adopting a new bill that would recognize both esports and players. Since governments don’t do anything “just because” it’s only natural to ask yourself “why did they propose the bill”? The proposal came after months of criticism over the excessive regulation regarding the esports industry. Plus, the country’s Ministry of Sport firmly refused to acknowledge esports as a proper sport. Since the number of esports enthusiasts and players is constantly on the rise, it comes as no wonder they would complain about the unfair treatment.

That’s how the Digital Republic bill was drafted and taken to the French Senate. The bill was constructed to safeguard the organization of tournaments, develop esports industry in France, and to define the status of professional players.

The biggest issue regarding esports was the fact it was regulated under the same legal framework as gambling which is illegal in France. Therefore, esports were considered illegal as well. For that reason, this country wasn’t appealing to organizers of major tournaments. Shockingly, the same Ministry of Sport which refused to acknowledge esports as a proper sport praised the incredible growth of the industry in this country, in December 2015.

Digital Republic bill details several policies associated with digital medium in French society, but the ones significant for esports are defining who a professional player is and the extension of French labor code into the professional gaming industry in the country. But, legalization of esports still had a long way to go.

Official recognition of esports

Team Vitality StageOn September 28, 2016, the French Senate brought a historic decision, they unanimously adopted the last version of the Numeric Law, thus differentiating esports from gambling (more about esports betting) and giving a frame to pro-gamers contracts. Interestingly, when the minister responsible for this law, Axelle Lemaire, opened a public discussion about it last year, esports weren’t mentioned.

Then SELL, the French game developer, pushed the addition of an article to set apart e-gaming from gambling. The entire gaming community applauded this move, and after Paris Games Week, Lemaire announced that esports should be added to the proposed law.

The new rules for esports were established in the Article 42:

  • Esports become legal and are set apart from gambling in the Code of Homeland Security
  • Esports of video games competitions are defined as competitions where at least two players or teams play for a victory
  • Sets a ratio between entry fees and prizes
  • Children under 16 need parental authorization to participate

Most importantly, the Article 42 provides a framework for professional player contracts; which should solve visa issues and make it easier for pro players to apply and participate in tournaments in this country at the same time. This is particularly useful because visa problems have become a major issue for pro players. You see, tourist visas are invalid and illegal for the practice of professional sports. This article will solve this obstacle.

FUN FACT: French TV mogul Canal + has announced its sponsorship deal with the Team Vitality, one of the largest esports teams in France, thus becoming the first European TV channel to sponsor esports team.

Bottom line

French government recognized the tremendous potential that esports have; tournaments bring visits to the country, they bring money, and ultimately, more people are employed in yet another growing industry. With the growth of the industry, it was about time to differentiate gambling and esports, define the status of pro players, and consider this industry as a proper sport. Hopefully, the law coming from France will inspire other countries to establish the role and status of esports in the society.