A recent contractual disagreement between Turner “TFue” Tenney, one of Fortnite’s most prominent professional players, and his Clan team FaZe, is currently reviving the debate on the unionization of electronic sports athletes.
TFue’s contract, signed in April 2018, stipulates that he must share a large part of his income with his team. For example, for a presence in a public event, he must give 50% of his salary to FaZe Clan. In the event that his team signs an advertising contract on his behalf, the player retains only 20% of the profits.
After terminating his contract, TFue stated that this agreement was abusive and that he should never have signed it. He decided to sue FaZe Clan for unduly limiting his business opportunities.
In response to the lawsuit, FaZe Clan indicated (New Window) that she had repeatedly tried to renegotiate the contract. According to the team, the current agreement, signed under the guidance of former owners of FaZe Clan, contains exaggerated provisions that it would never have applied to the letter. The team says it has only retained $ 60,000 from TFue’s multi-million dollar revenue.
Rebalancing the negotiations
This case has rekindled a wider debate in the professional electronic sports industry about the unionization of players. Uniting players to offer working conditions, salaries, benefits and official representatives during negotiations is an idea that has been floating in the air for many years in different leagues.
The North American League of Legends League (LCS) was the first to advance in this field in 2017, although the initiative did not come from the players, but from the league itself. Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends and the LCS, has set up an association of players whose company provides the funding itself.
This peculiarity prevents him from being legally considered a union and has also attracted a lot of criticism. Observers have doubts about his ability to be independent of Riot Games and to represent the interests of the players.
The first players union
In the summer of 2018, Counter-Strike became the first syndicated electronic sport among professionals, with the creation of the Counter-Strike Professional Players’ Association (CSPPA). The international organization represents since the interests of the players during contract negotiations and offers them legal advice.
Moreover, according to the Sports Business Daily website in March 2018, the former Dutch Overwatch professional Thomas “Dead” Kerbusch was looking for a trade union last year with the help of American lawyer specializing in sports law Ellen Zavian.
The duo then claimed to have been advised by other well-established professional players’ associations, and hoped to be able to showcase the fruits of their work in the months that followed. No progress has since been reported.
Towards a union for Fortnit?
Without directly taking a stand in favor of a union, Turner “TFue” Tenney has meant his exasperation at the limited resources available to new professional players.
“What I’m trying to do right now is to do justice to the e-sports community,” Tenney said in a video posted on his YouTube channel. These young people are ripped off. They are exploited. These contracts are not correct and [this situation] must never happen again. ”
A view shared by the electronic sports lawyer Andrew Gordon, interviewed by Bloomberg. “These organizations are strongly advised and they come with 30-page agreements containing all kinds of terms,” he said. Often, on the other side, you have a teenager or a young ventiment who has probably never read a contract before. The player is really at a disadvantage.”
With information from Bloomberg , ESPN and Sports Business Daily