The emerging role of esports in European sport
Day two of the ESP2018 kicked off with a look at esports and grassroots clubs by Martin Ftrizen of DGI. He asked the question: Why should sports clubs be interested in esport? Among the reasons were the opportunities to gain more members and new talent groups, taking into account the magnitude and popularity of esports. Fritzen cited a Goldman & Sachs study:
"They were predicting that we will have more people watching esports than the NBA in 2022."
He also highlighted the similarities that already exist between esports and traditional sports, and the ways in which the structure remains the same.
Discussions with panels of experts followed, focussing on common questions in the emergence of esport— among these are questions of gender equality, violence in esport, social inclusion, and how esports and traditional sports clubs can interact and benefit from collaboration.
On the question of female representation in an often male-dominated environment, Fritzen noted, "It's all about changing the culture." He went on to suggest that to encourage girls to engage in esports, we should focus on developing passion and interest. Fruzsina Eszenyi shared her own journey as a female esport player, citing a number of barriers. It is clear that there remains a long road ahead for esports and gaming to achieve gender inclusion. However, esports are also unique in that they do not separate teams by gender, a common practice in most traditional sports. Renátó Besenczi spoke on the inherent inclusivity of esports, noting that it is a "sport for everyone".
Another emerging theme of the day was the importance of finding new ways to engage with potential sports club members, especially youth. In this sense, esports have an important role to play. It was also mentioned that the esports structure, unlike that of traditional sport, is designed for regular communication between the players and creators. Modern sports clubs can look to esports for new such approaches, engaging more directly with the players and harnessing fun to keep them involved in the long term.
Many questions remain about esports and its place in modern sports clubs. To recognise its potential, it is first necessary to put aside biases about what the sport is, understanding its complexity and how it can help create a new kind of sports club in the future.