For the first time since it was launched in 1997, the St. Petersburgh International Economic Forum, an annual business event, included a dedicated Esports panel session. The session gathered a number of representatives of the state, sports, business and infrastructure organizations among other stakeholders in the development of Russian Esports.
Titled ‘Cybersport: Global Trends in Sports and Business’, the session involved discussions from a number of big industry names including:
- Emin Antonyan, Secretary General, Chairman of the Executive Board, Russian Esports Federation
- Ilya Galaev, President, VFSO Trudovye Rezervy
- Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager, Virtus.pro
- Nail Izmailov, Vice President, FC Spartak Moscow
- Aleksandr Prokopyev, Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Member of the Committee on Physical Culture, Sport, Tourism, and Youth Affairs
- Neil Sturrock, President of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Caucasus and Central Asia, PepsiCo
- Anton Cherepennikov, Director, Member of the Board of Directors, ESforce Holding
The moderator, in this case, was Match TV general producer Tinatin Kendalaki. Also present was the Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation, Pavel Kolobkov though he spoke at a separate session. During the said session, the minister pointed out that he believes that Esports is a legitimate sports discipline, especially because like traditional sports, it involves rules, training methodology and tournament systems. He, however, made it clear that he was of the opinion that Esports will not be replacing sports but instead flourish alongside them.
According to the Esports observer, the government of Russia has expressed a lot of keenness to work with the Esports industry to regulate Esports development in Russian. Pavel Kolobkov acknowledged that the Russian Esports sphere is developing quickly and thus the government needs to work on implementing some legal boundaries to regulate it.
“We had a long discussion, and I believe that we made the right choice because it does not matter whether the government or somebody else recognizes Esports as a sport,” Kolobkov said. “It was recognized by the society. By people who are making it. Our task is to regulate it and put in some legal boundaries, allow it to develop under our control, along with the government, along with us. That is why I am sure that at this moment one can say that Esports is quite an established sphere.”
Russia was the first country to officially recognize Esports way back in 2001 – in fact, Esports was included in the list of sports that were officially recognized and existed in the country. This was, however, followed by a period of complication that saw the activity scraped from the list twice after the restructuring of the Ministry of Sports. Everything eventually went back to normal towards the end of 2017 with Esports players now being able to earn official sporting grades just like other players of traditional sports.