In March 2023, The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (“UKIE”) hosted a panel discussion, “esports in the UK: challenges and future opportunities.” In the first of our mini-blog series covering the event, we highlight what Alex Sobel, Labour Member of Parliament and member of Video Games and Esports all-party parliamentary group, had to say about a government perspective on esports and its future.
Alex opened the session by explaining that he felt there is currently a lack of understanding of the esports industry and the potential economic impact it could have. The UK is a world leader in esports and provides plenty of economic opportunities, for example, via job roles in video games and studios, but these opportunities are not acknowledged by the government. Alex recognised the importance of engaging MPs in esports to change that.
Alex suggested that if esports are considered firstly as a sport, rather than video-gaming activity, this would likely increase engagement and visibility. This, in his view, will result in esports being taken more seriously. The economic benefits of esports are also being overlooked. Alex drew on how big sports tournaments and matches attract fans to visit the host city, which brings with it a host of benefits to the local hospitality industry. If esports start being viewed as a sport in the traditional sense and gain visibility in this way, then aspects like big tournaments and the economic / societal impacts will highlight esports to the government and give it a greater incentive to invest in the industry.
Alex also suggested that the esports industry should push entities in the UK tourism industry, such as VisitBritain and VisitEngland, to do more to publicise events, which could help to give the industry more of a global presence. Esports is easier to promote than traditional industries, due to the heavy online presence of audiences.
Finally, Alex said that the government and tourism entities could work in tandem to support esports, especially in relation to making esports easier to access. For example, the government could give arenas subsidies when hosting esports events, and VisitBritain could obtain funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, and use it to provide package deals - combining flights with hotel and dinner vouchers and applying a discount to incentivise fans from other countries to visit the UK to attend esports events.
In our second blog, we’ll cover what Dominic Sacco of Esports News UK, had to say about the upcoming UKIE report on the current state of esports in the UK.