Esports is a prospering industry with stakeholders in various sectors and numerous opportunities for businesses. After a long wait, the Professional Sports Commission of Thailand ("Sports Commission") officially recognized and announced esports as a professional sport, similar to other traditional sports (e.g., football and golf). This official recognition provides concrete protection and legal obligations to businesses and stakeholders in the industry.
Back in 2017, the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) decided to officially approve esports as a type of sport that can register as a sports association. Despite this decision, there remained a lack of concrete mechanisms and measures for handling various aspects of the esports industry, particularly for the protection of professional esports players' welfare and working conditions, as it was not recognized in a similar manner to professional sports.
Now, under the Notification of Professional Sports Commission re: Designation of Types or Categories of Sports which are Professional Sports (No. 2) B.E. 2564 (2021) ("Notification"), esports are finally recognized as a professional sport under the Promotion of Professional Sports Act B.E. 2556 (2013) ("Professional Sports Act"). Protection and legal obligations that apply to traditional professional sports shall be applied to stakeholders in the esports industry.
Below are certain key protections and legal obligations for stakeholders in the esports industry:
Professional esports clubs and professional esports associations
Professional esports clubs and professional esports associations are required to notify the competent authority of their operation. For existing professional esports clubs and associations, they will have to notify their operations to the competent authority within 90 days from the date that the Notification came into force (i.e., 90 days from 21 September 2021).
Those who notify the competent authority will obtain the right to use any words that refer to esports in their club or association name, and be granted certain benefits (e.g., athlete and staff development, information on athletes, participation of national and international professional competitions, and the lending of properties of the SAT).
The notified professional clubs and associations must adhere to the following key requirements, amongst others:
Enter into a contract with each of their esports athletes and staff, which must contain the minimum required terms (e.g., normal working hours, annual leave, and termination of employment).
Issue a code of conduct for their esports athletes or staff, which must include punishment for violation.
Provide assurances that esports athletes, staff, fans or attendees of events/competitions in the exhibition ground who participate will act in an orderly manner throughout the competition.
Professional esports athletes and staff
Professional esports athletes and staff are required to notify the competent authority of their professional status. In a similar vein to clubs and associations, those who notify the competent authority will obtain certain forms of protection and benefits (e.g., participation in national and international professional competitions, borrow properties of the SAT, and the protection of contractual rights with professional esports clubs or associations).
In the event of unfair practices of esports clubs and associations, professional athletes and staff can file complaints with the competent authorities.
Professional esports athletes and staff are entitled to establish an organization to uphold the dignity and preserve the interests of its members.
Failure to comply with the requirements under the Notification could result in administrative fines of up to THB 100,000 (approximately USD 3,050).