IESF maintains it was first esports governing body after launch of rival federation
By Tariq Saleh
The International Esports Federation is “open” to working with the newly-formed Global Esports Federation despite dismissing its claim to be the sport’s first worldwide governing body.
The IESF, which comprises 56 national member federations, was formed in 2008 and has purported to be the governing body for the fragmented, nascent sport, describing itself as “the only body to truly represent the entire esports community.”
However, the GEF challenged that notion after it launched this week, saying it will be “the first-ever global governing body for the esports ecosystem of athletes, sports organisations, commercial partners, and other constituents.”
However, after electing its new board for the 2019-22 period this week, the IESF maintains that it remains top of the esports leadership structure due to its ties with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and the International Olympic Committee.
Colin Webster, the re-elected president of the IESF, told Sportcal: “In 2008 two such [esports governing] bodies were formed, and the weaker of the two, in the best interests of its members and esports, graciously dissolved, and its members affiliated to IESF.
“With IESF’s democratic structures which are wholly in line with those as required by GAISF and the International Olympic Committee, IESF is able to serve its members as no other body in esports is able to do.
“It should be noted that while IESF only started with eight members in 2008, such membership has now grown to be over 50 member national federations, out of which over 30 have recognition from National Olympic Committees or highest sporting authority.
“IESF has a footprint on every continent, making it the only body capable of being recognised as a true international federation. It should too be noted that IESF is a World Anti-Doping Agency signatory and has been since 2016. Thus from the above, it is evident that IESF predates any other organisation and is itself the first governing body for esports.”
According to Webster, the IESF “is already the largest representative esports organisation in the world.”
The South African was elected as president for a four-year term in 2018, defeating Russia's Constantine Surkont, and will again be joined on the board by Vlad Marinescu, the former director general of SportAccord (now GAISF), who has been re-elected as vice-president.
Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah Al-Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates, Young Man Kim of South Korea, Ido Brosh of Israel and Boban Totovski of Macedonia were also elected as IESF board members.
The GEF, which will be headquartered in Singapore, has been launched with the backing of Chinese internet giant Tencent, which will serve as the new federation’s founding global partner.
The move strengthens Tencent’s significant presence in the esports market, with investments in several of the world’s biggest tournaments.
The company also owns prominent video game publishers Riot Games and SuperCell.
In 2017, Tencent put plans in place to create a Yn100-billion ($14.2-billion) esports market in China as part of a five-year plan to increase competitive video gaming in the country.
The GEF has outlined four key pillars it will focus on: connecting traditional and active esports with the global sporting community; active youth participation; world-class governance and compliance standards; and education, culture, and wellness.
Chris Overholt, chief executive of OverActive Media, a Canada-based integrated global eSports and entertainment company, is a member of the GEF board.
The body said membership is open to international and national federations and other sports organisations, commercial organisations such as publishers, developers, sponsors and event organisers, and non-commercial organisations, including cities and other non-government organisations.
Webster said the IESF is open to working with the GEF if it helps to promote esports.
He added: “IESF is open to collaborating with any and all who share the vision and goals of promoting unity in the code. Thus IESF is continually in talks with all involved in esports to ensure that esports is taken seriously, and that the rights of all, be it, players, publishers, event organisers, etc., are protected.”
Having been re-elected, Webster is keen to grow esports in new markets and has identified Africa as a region where it should have a footprint.
He said: “There is much work to be done to grow esports. Africa requires special attention due to many countries having weak infrastructure and weak economies. Socio-economic factors cannot be separated from any growth plans. However, with the admirable work done by previous IESF committees, my main focus shall continue to be to entrench esports as a sport so that all within the esports community may benefit from the advantages as associated with being a sport.
Webster added that while he is on the IESF board, he hopes to see the federation “grow to take its rightful place among other sporting federations as well as to see esports recognised as a sport by all.”
The IESF is currently in the process of relocating its global headquarters from South Korea to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, one of its member associations.
Meanwhile, Allied Esports, the global eSports venue owner and entertainment company, has agreed a strategic partnership with Wanyoo, the largest network of esports centres in China.
The multi-year deal will make the company an official affiliate member of the Allied Esports Property Network, which is described as the world’s first affiliate programme for global partners interested in developing esports venues and participating in Allied Esports’ event programming and content production.
As part of the agreement, Allied Esports will use its global resources, including the alignment and offerings from its network and strategic partners, to assist with the acceleration of the expansion of Wanyoo’s overseas operations.
Allied Esports and Wanyoo will also collaborate on the creation and monetisation of esports experiences and events to reach Wanyoo’s global members in over 800 locations across China and worldwide, including facilities in USA, Australia, Singapore, the UK and Canada.
By joining Allied Esports’ affiliate programme, Wanyoo will present its customers with opportunities to attend and participate in special events at Allied Esports Property Network locations around the world, including its flagship location, the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas.
Allied Esports’ new strategic partnership with Wanyoo replaces its former Chinese affiliate relationship with Lianmeng Dianjing, which expired on 1 December.