For the vast majority of the world, “esports” is this shiny new thing that they keep hearing about on television and the internet. Regardless of where you heard of it, the one constant theme across the media is that the esport industry is exploding right now. There is more and more money being poured into it year after year, and more coverage of various events increasing daily. It’s really exciting for everyone involved, especially the athletes. Being able to play video games as a career is brand new idea, and a lot of athletes jump at the opportunity to make their passion their career. What a lot of athletes do not realize, however, is that there is an underbelly to the esport industry. There are countless stories of athletes being locked into terrible contracts with teams, not getting paid on time, or in some cases, at all, (just look at Denial). But it doesn’t need to be this way!
Athletes put the time and hard-work into their craft, and they should be rewarded as a result. They shouldn’t have to fight with team owners over contracts, late payments and so on. Enter the athlete agent, the individual who will fight with team owners, help the athlete get paid, and ensure the athlete receives the protection and value they deserve for the duration of their careers.
In esports, player representatives or “agents” are not typically seen in a positive light, likely because of the turbulent history these individuals have had with esport athletes over the last decade.
I am here to tell you that not all agents are bad and there are some really good ones out there. Athletes could benefit a great deal from having an agent. They just need to make sure the person they employ as their agent has the appropriate background and experience – this typically involves some combination of a legal education and work experience within the industry – for the job. The athlete should also look for someone who will put their needs first, someone they can trust, and develop a strong relationship with. It may take some time to find the right person, but every athlete can benefit greatly from having an agent.
How They Can Help?
In order to be an esport athlete, it requires a lot of time and effort to become the best and stay the best. With most of their time committed to perfecting their craft, athletes do not have a lot of time for other areas of their career. This is where representation can really help an athlete. An agent can help relieve an athlete’s daily issues and take care of the things an athlete does not have the time to do.
Being an esport athlete presents a number of unique problems that traditional athletes do not typically have to deal with. Let me present you with an example.
Everyone knows that an athlete has to sign a number of contracts with teams and brands throughout the duration of their career. What a lot of people DO NOT know is that when you sign a contract, you are legally bound to complete whatever obligations you agree too. What that means is that, before you sign a contract, you want to review every last word of it to ensure you know what you are signing, what your obligations are, how long those obligations will last for and so on. Contracts often end up being a lot of pages, with a lot of legal language in them that can be difficult to decipher. Athletes often do not have the time or resources to fully understand what the contract being offered to them is saying exactly.
This is where an agent (particularly one who has experience and is legally trained) can be of great use to an athlete. They can review the contract for the athlete, decipher the language, and ensure that the athlete is receiving the most value for their services. The agent acts as a safety net for athlete this way, by ensuring the athlete’s best interests and legal rights are protected throughout their careers.
Negotiations – Have the Hard Conversations
In traditional sports, before an athlete signs with a team, there is often a period of negotiation. The athlete and team discuss things like how much money the team will pay the player and how long the player will be playing for the team. The same is true for esport athletes and teams and organizations, and similar principles can extend to endorsements!
During these types of negotiations, players and teams are often strive for completely opposite goals (For example, the team wants to sign the player for small amount of money, while the player wants to sign with the team for a large amount of money). A lot of tension can be created in these situations, players often want to ask the team for more money, but also may feel awkward in doing so. Yet again, here is where having representation benefits the player. An agent can act as the “middle man” between the player and the team, allowing the player to indirectly ask all the tough questions and get the answers they are looking for, while also being able to maintain a positive image in the eyes of the team they are negotiating with. Having an agent in these situations leads to better relationships, easier and more efficient negotiating, and ultimately, a better deal for the athlete. Let the agent ask the awkward stuff, let the athlete just play.
Connect Athlete to Brands
Yet another way an agent can help their athletes is by being an extra set of eyes and ears in the esport industry. Agents can take the time to seek out new business (i.e. endorsement deals, appearances etc) that the athlete simply does not have the time do with their busy schedule. In doing so, it allows the athlete to grow their own personal brand more efficiently and provides added sources of income throughout the athlete’s career. While we have not seen many athlete endorsements within the esport industry to date, it is only a matter of time before it begins.
These are just a few of the ways an good agent can help an athlete. The esport industry is evolving before our eyes, and athletes should find someone they can trust, who will put their needs first, fight for them, and aid their careers.
Historically, there have been a lot of bad agents in the esport industry, but there are a lot of benefits if an athlete has a good agent behind them. Athletes should take the time, do their homework, and find someone will help them build a long-lasting, sustainable career.