How Will SHADOW's Contract Situation with TSM and GodLike Play Out? We Asked a Lawyer
With TSM taking legal action against GodLike amidst the ongoing BGMI controversy involving Arjun "SHADOW" Mandhalkar, the situation could have serious implications for not just the player but also the Indian esports ecosystem. AFK Gaming reached out to Abhishek Subbaiah, who is a lawyer and Managing Partner at Bridge Legal to find out more about the legal implications of the contractual dispute between TSM and GodLike.
Warning: The following information is not legal advice and it is just a legal analysis from a professional’s perspective.
TSM’s contract is legally binding
We learned from Subbaiah that even though there is no regulatory body for esports in India, the contract between TSM and SHADOW is not invalidated. If it is a properly drafted and executed contract between both parties, it is legally binding.
If SHADOW did break the terms of his contract, he can suffer consequences. According to Subbaiah, “an esports contract is much like any other contract where one party provides services and the other party provides remuneration - of course, there are certain nuances that are specific to what the services are, but at the end of the day it's just another legally admissible document that clearly outlines what each party is supposed to do, how they are supposed to do it, and what happens if they don't do what they are supposed to do.”
The only way teams and players can protect themselves from situations like the ongoing TSM-GodLike controversy is by having well-drafted contracts that anyone can understand. Clauses for termination and confidentiality are generally key to any well-drafted contract.
What implications could the legal action have on SHADOW?
SHADOW could be barred from competing in tournaments by the organizers and the matter will be left to the discretion of the hosts of specific events. One of the key points of contention in the controversy is that SHADOW claimed he terminated the contract via email. While he claims that he put in a termination letter, TSM says the player is still under contract.
Subbaiah shed some light on the situation saying, “This really depends on what the contract actually says. This type of 'unilateral termination' without the need for the other party to accept is sometimes allowed in contracts but only on the occurrence of very special circumstances. Even then, there's usually a buffer period/notice that needs to be given. Again, the concept and language of termination clauses aren't alien to a sports or esports contract as much as they are to any other standard contract.”
SHADOW said that he put in a termination letter via email and the one-sided termination is not enough unless his contract with TSM specifies so. With the contract between the player and the organization not being public, third-parties cannot know for sure what the implications could be.
How will the legal proceedings work in India?
According to Subbaiah, the contract may have procedures for negotiation and an alternate dispute resolution. But either party can approach a court of law to settle disputes.
He said that the proceedings could take “longer than one would want for certain (hence the first push to be for alternate dispute resolution). The Indian judicial system has a LOT of cases pending from decades ago, to give an idea.” He also mentioned that such cases could be very expensive affairs as well.