The inclusion of esports and clubbing it with fantasy sports in the recently-announced Rajasthan Virtual Online Sports (Regulation) Bill 2022 has received flak from the industry, with the Esports Federation of India (ESFI) questioning this move, in order to bring the electronic sports to the mainstream sports ecosystem. ESFI has termed this Bill as detrimental to the growth of esports in India.
While the Rajasthan Revenue Ministry had asked for comments and suggestions from all the stakeholders on the proposed draft by May 28, ESFI along with its affiliated association from Rajasthan have shared their concerns, requesting the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sports Minister Ashok Chandna to remove esports from being part of Virtual Online Sports and the bill.
ESFI has also requested Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur, MoS – Sports Nishith Pramanik and Secretary Sports Sujata Chaturvedi for their immediate intervention, as esports is an extension of sports and should be removed from the draft bill.
“It’s important to understand that not all games played electronically are esports. The outcome of any esports match is solely and purely dependent/based on the skills (physical & mental) and performances of the esports athletes are just like cricket, badminton etc. It’s absolutely wrong to club esports (a sport) with fantasy gaming or anything other than sports,” said Vinod Tiwari, President of ESFI, Director – International & NOC Relations of Olympic Council of Asia and Convenor-Esports Committee, Olympic Council of Asia.
ESFI is a recognised member of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF), which is recognised by the Olympic Council of Asia as the sole governing body for esports in the Asian continent and is also in charge of the technical conduct of esports at the 2022 Asian Games.
ESFI has been sending Indian teams to Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games since 2007 and in the last Asian Games in 2018, wherein esports was played as a demonstration event, India’s Tirth Mehta had won bronze medal for the country in Hearthstone title in the last Asiad in Jakarta.
“We are seeing technology evolution all across and esports is the tech evolution of sports. It is a sport recognised by world sporting bodies like IOC, OCA and Commonwealth etc. and is being governed by the sports rules/laws of the various countries, just like any other sport. Esports is an all-inclusive sport, restricting and/or limiting and/or regulating it the way it’s been proposed in the draft bill will only be detrimental to the growth of our sport and development of the grassroots in the state of Rajasthan or any other Indian state which is planning any such bill on the similar lines,” stated Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF).
At the 2022 Asian Games, esports has been included as a medal sport and ESFI had shortlisted the 18-member Indian esports contingent after conducting a mega Nationals, talents were chosen to be part of the contingent based on the performances at the National Esports Championships 2022, to participate across five titles at the Asian Games.
Key concerns raised by ESFI in their letter to the Rajasthan government:
- “Esports is a sport”; hence, it cannot be clubbed with Fantasy Sports. Esports is recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is the apex body of sports along with the Olympic Council of Asia (hereinafter referred to as the “OCA”), Commonwealth Games etc. And they have included esports in their multiple events. IOC organized Virtual Olympic Series (Esports Tournament), before the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Esports is a medal sport in Asian Games 2022 (Postponed) and in the Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games 2021 (Postponed) scheduled to be held in 2023; Esports has been a medal sport in South Asian Games in 2019, 2021 & 2022. Even the Commonwealth Games is organizing Commonwealth Esports Championship 2022 alongside Commonwealth Games 2022; French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron made a public statement that he wants esports to be included in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
- Across the world, Esports is governed through recognised international and continental federations such as the International Esports Federation (IESF), Asian Esports Federation (AESF), and Pan American Esports Confederation (PAMESCO). Leading countries and sports governing bodies have acknowledged Esports as a sport and are regulating the same under their sports laws/acts. There are more than 46 such countries e.g., South Korea, USA, Finland, Germany, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil, Nepal, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Macedonia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Serbia Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Georgia, Turkey etc. And thus, it shall be obliged under the Sports Act of the State of Rajasthan. It becomes vividly clear that Esports is and has been recognised as a sport and thus, it shall be obliged under the Sports Act of the Rajasthan State; It is on account of the presence of the Act that the bill becomes not only moot but also wrong to apply the rules of fantasy onto Esports; whether free to play and/or pay-to-play.
3. The name of the Bill “Virtual Sports” is not appropriate as this will lead to people misunderstanding “Fantasy Sports” as a Sport.