$19,000 to play League of Legends.

I spotted this on my newsfeed this morning and jokingly sent it to my brother (an avid gamer who’ll hopefully be off to university in a couple of years). Robert Morris University has offered a huge scholarship (up to $19,000) for people to play League of Legends. A quick Google search told me that RMU’s average amount of institutional aid awarded per student is $4,331.00. $19,000 is a sizable chunk of money for something that is not a traditional athletic scholarship.

Last year in Trusts I learnt that originally a trust for a “mere game” with no educational value was not charitable (Re Nottage [1895] 2 Ch 649, per Lindley LJ at 655). Over time, charitable money for the promotion of sport was allowed if it was for educational purposes. This included the interesting scenario where chess was recognised as a sport due to its educational nature (Re Dupree [1945] Ch 16). Currently, the Charities Act 2006 allows money left for the promotion of amateur sports to constitute valid trusts. Amateur sports are defined in section 3 (2)(d) as in “sports or games which promote health by involving physical or mental skill or exertion”.

Although trusts don’t have very much to do with the general acceptance of eSports, it is interesting to note that other non-physical sports which require skill are recognised under English law. Moreover, it raises interesting questions about leaving money in trust for scholarships to play eSports. My question to the class is this – with a university offering scholarships to attract top players and professional competitions drawing huge crowds, is it finally time to fully recognize eSports as a legitimate athletic endeavor? I’d also be very interested to hear if there is any Canadian precedent on this issue.

Note – my brother texted back and said he doesn’t play League. Maybe UBC will start offering Halo scholarships though?