The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has written to all to the summer and winter International Federations telling them they do not plan to recognise Global Esports Federation (GEF) or any organisation as the world governing body for esports.
What is the Global Esports Federation
The Singapore-based Global Esports Federation which was launched last December and is backed by Chinese technology company Tencent. It was set up with the aim to “establish the credibility, legitimacy and prestige for esports” and build “an inclusive platform to bring together all the stakeholders from the esports industry to help shape the GEF mission and maximise the potential for esports and its participants”.
At its launch, Chan set GEF the aim of Olympic Games inclusion, claiming they could help end the “misunderstanding” of esports, which continues to grow in popularity and has started to enter the Olympic Movement. Since its launch, several Olympic sports have become members of the GEF, including archery, canoeing, karate, modern pentathlon, surfing, taekwondo and tennis.
The GEF was set up as a rival to the South Korean-based International eSports Federation (IeSF), established in 2008 and whose mission it is to have esports recognised as a legitimate sport. The IeSF has not signed deals with any Olympic sports and instead channels its efforts into hosting the Esports World Championship, the organisation’s flagship competition where esports athletes represent their national teams.
Why the IOC does not recognize GEF
A big concern could be the fact that GEF is backed by Tencent. Tencent has major investments within eSports. While these investments would serve to motivate the company to try and ensure that the federation does a good job of managing the industry, in the future when the industry is more established and there is a need to make a decision on which eSport should receive more support, the ones where Tencent has a share may be favoured. This in turn would lead to the emergence of unfair practices within the world body and that would have a negative impact.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Esports and Gaming Liaison Group (ELG), chaired by International Cycling Union President David Lappartient, has written to all to the summer and winter International Federations telling them they do not plan to recognise any organisation as the world governing body for esports.
The potential inclusion of esports in the Olympic Games is a contentious topic but the ELG claimed the IOC remains “committed to supporting IFs in this area of innovation and engagement”.
“[The IOC] is actively engaged in exploring the opportunities and initiatives to engage directly with this young digital community in order to promote participation in sport, engagement with the Olympic Movement and promotion of Olympic values,” the Gaming Liaison Group (ELG) letter said.
How does it Impact the esports Industry
The decision by the IOC is a blow to the eSports community, however, in the long run, it could be beneficial for the development of eSports.
The IOC already have strong relations within the eSports industry. These relationships are with game publishers, platforms, and athletes. According to a report on Inside the Games, the ELG “will maintain these direct relationships rather than working through a third party.”
Such an organisation being recognised is the fact that they will help regulate some of the issues related to match-fixing, cheating, and other unsportsmanlike behaviour that occurs within eSports. While there is a need for regulation in the world of competitive eSports, it should not be at the cost of creating a possible barrier to the future growth of the industry.
A more neutral body that chooses to partner with all stakeholders (including international federations and IOC) with the aim of promoting a code of conduct is the solution that the industry should look towards.