With almost 50 global nations being members of the International eSports Federation – an organisation dedicated to recognising eSports as a true sport – and the global value estimated to grow to over $1 billion by 2021, why are the UK, Ireland, and the US refusing to identify this as a sport? Even the International Olympic Committee agreed competitive eSports can be considered a sporting activity – the 2022 Asian Games are due to include a medal event for the practice.
It has been estimated that the total revenue from eSports in 2018 will reach $906m – 38.2% more than last year. Sponsorship alone equates to 40% of this total which is an impressive 53.2% growth from 2017. Clearly, this is a trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Some of the influential figures behind various campaigns to legitimise eSports as a sport in Britain are Chester King, the Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP and Tej Kohli, billionaire and philanthropist.
Chester King founded the British eSports Association in January 2016 and has a significant sporting background in ‘traditional sports’ from working for the Football Association and Lord’s cricket ground.
The Rt. Hon. Ed Vaizey MP was the Culture Minister from 2010 until 2016 and is a huge supporter for the gaming industry in Britain; an example of this is during his time as Culture Minister he secured tax breaks for game development studios to help further advancement in the industry.
Tej Kohli is a technology entrepreneur who is using his business and investment influence to adapt peoples understanding of eSports as he believes the merging of technology and competitive sports is where society is moving. Tej Kohli has openly spoken about his passion for eSports and the investments made into this industry will encourage communities from around to world to come together.
eSports campaigners have argued that “sport doesn’t mean you have to sweat” and with no official definition of what makes a sport a sport – why are activities such as Clay Pigeon Shooting, Tug of War and Life Saving considered to be sports? Could the advancements of the technology used in eSports be worrying to the older generation? Is this unacceptance due to a lack of understanding or fear of a fast-growing industry?
In recent years, the card game Bridge was refused recognition as a sport which lead to its denial to receive lottery funding and VAT exception. According to EU law, for a sport to be able to claim such benefits, it must be able to prove physical or mental well-being. If this rationale was used for denying eSports these benefits, then why are there numerous members of the EU also supporting the International eSports Federation?
Studies have shown an abundance of physical and mental benefits of eSports, such as the increase of perceptual skills, decision making, the speed of processing, multitasking and the optimisation of cognitive performance. eSports promote teamwork and can boost reading comprehension and even sight.
eSports is an industry that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon and with the rapid advancement of technology, the popularity of gaming is growing just as fast. In such a modern and innovative society, professional gamers are still being denied visas when travelling to compete in international tournaments – the same tournaments that bring thousands of fans and income to the host country. With all this in mind, the reasoning behind the UK refusing to identify eSports as a sport appears to be void.