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IOC Encourages Traditional Sports to Explore Esports

8 Jan, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Emerging Sport Still Needs Governance - and Yet Another Governing Body Has Declared Itself

There’s good news and bad news about esports. The good news is that the IOC wants international sports federations to explore esports opportunities (and more on that in a moment.)

The bad news: Esports has yet another wannabe governing body. And as those different entities grapple for superiority in the gaming space, the landscape of the sport might soon look like one of those game battlegrounds the IOC dislikes so very much.

To be absolutely clear, though, the phenomenon of multiple organizations vying for the title of governing body is something we’ve seen many times over, particularly in sports that are on the grow.

In surfing, the World Surf League and the International Surfing Association fought to gain control of the sport. In parkour, the International Gymnastics Federation wanted to govern the sport – and Parkour Earth was having none of it.

So when the Global Esports Federation (GEF) which recently launched, with Tencent Esports as its founding partner, and said it had the goal of being “the voice and authority for the worldwide esports movement,” it was understandable that the industry didn’t jump up and down with excitement.

According to the Esports Observer, “the esports industry is almost entirely decentralized, with game publishers acting as intellectual rights owners and competition regulators. As such, there are multiple organizations attempting to govern the space, none of which are officially recognized as the single global governing body for the industry, or even a single game.”

At the same time GEF was trumpeting its debut, the International Esports Federation (IeSF), a South Korea-based organization that formed in 2008 and has members from 56 different countries, was announcing the results of its own executive elections.

Then there’s always the World Esports Association (WEA) that launched in 2016 with the stated goal of centralizing the formative industry.

There has been no word from any of the groups on whether or how they expect to work together – or who will have ascendancy. Because the sport does not fall under the auspices of the IOC, it’s unlikely there will need to be an immediate determination on who is in charge. But the days of denying the power of esports are too far behind to even be seen in the rear-view. In fact, the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF, the umbrella organization for both Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations, as well as organizers of international sporting events) says traditional sports cannot stop the rise of esports. However, it notes, sports’ role should be to guide the burgeoning esports industry in a positive direction.

That announcement, made during the Regional SportAccord Pan America meeting, was noted in an article in Inside The Games. GAISF director Philippe Gueisbuhler pointed out that the wheels were already in motion and that there was no chance of a slowdown.

"This train is already driving, we cannot stop esports," he said. "It is there and will continue to grow. Our kids and youth are on board and all we can do is try to bring it in the right direction.”

Interestingly enough, Gueisbuhler’s remarks came on the heels of a presentation by Vlad Marinescu, the vice president of IeSF, and United States eSports Federation President.

And while the IOC has yet to become involved in esports (in fact, it’s staying as far away as possible), it did broach the topic during its Olympic Summit held in early December in Switzerland. During that meeting, notes Inside The Games, “it was suggested that International Federations consider how to govern electronic forms of their sport and explore opportunities with gaming publishers. The Summit agreed on a two-speed approach. With regard to electronic games simulating sports, the Summit claimed it saw great potential for cooperation and incorporating esports into the sports movement, with many sports simulations becoming more physical due to the advancement of virtual and augmented reality. As such, International Federations were urged to explore esports opportunities.”

Good thing for both the IOC and esports, then, that Marinescu has pledged to work with traditional sports to create sustainable growth for the future. 

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