Esports became an official sport in Ukraine. What does it mean?

8 min read
Oleg Krot: “The official status of esports allows for dispelling myths about the ‘non-seriousness’ of the industry.”

Managing Partner of the esports media holding WePlay Esports Oleg Krot talked with Суспільне about the meaning of the industry’s new status.

On September 7, Ukraine recognized esports as an official sport at the legislative level. The decision was taken by a majority of votes at a meeting of the Commission for the Recognition of Sports of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Numerous local and foreign media outlets, as well as civil servants, wrote about this event. The industry representatives also shared their opinions on the importance of the new status of esports. Oleg Krot, Managing Partner of the esports media holding WePlay Esports and board member of the Ukrainian Professional Esports Association, also joined the discussion. 

In an interview with Cуспільне, Oleg assumed how this decision might influence further esports growth as well as operations of organizations, tournament operators, teams, and other industry players.

What does this step mean for the esports scene in Ukraine in general, and for WePlay Esports in particular?

I believe that the recognition of esports at the legislative level is a great reputational victory for the esports community. What is the practical significance of this decision? The status of an official sport, first of all, gives a chance for the representatives of the industry to start a dialogue with the government. 

Possible benefits may include financial and informational support for tournaments and other events, grants for training for talented beginners and further development for professionals, or the opening of municipal computer clubs at the request of the community of a town or district.

Regarding the positioning of esports in society, for tournament operators and esports holdings such as WePlay Esports, teams, or match commentators, the official status of the industry provides an opportunity to talk about their activities to a wide audience and dispel stereotypes about the “non-seriousness” of esports. Numerous non-core media have already written about this decision.

But today, we can only guess how this move will affect the industry. Time will tell.

What changes will WePlay Esports have as a tournament organizer after the official recognition of esports? Will this somehow facilitate the process of obtaining permits or, conversely, will it create new bureaucratic rules?

With the official recognition of esports, entry visas for esports players may appear similar to those which are given to football or hockey players. So, team members, coaches, or accompanying specialists will have a transparent reason to apply for a visa to the embassy and spend as much time in our country as they need to prepare and participate in the tournament.  

Other legal benefits may include the import of equipment (cameras, lighting, screens, etc.), a faster and easier process of obtaining permits for the construction of esports arenas, or the lease of state-owned locations.

I heard the opinion that the rapid development of semi-professional and amateur esports scenes in Ukraine will begin with the official status. Does WePlay Esports see a prospect in this direction, or do you plan to work more actively with amateurs?

Such developments are quite possible. Currently, most of the funds are allocated for the development of the professional scene: the same players play in teams. At the same time, for gamers who are willing to invest their soul and spend time on development, esports organizations remain out of reach. And in order for the industry to develop, it is important that new promising players join it.

WePlay Esports is working to build an ecosystem that has space, money, and support for both the professional and semi-professional scene. Not to mention those who are just interested in esports. By ecosystem, I mean tournaments, leagues, and the WePlay! Tournament Platform, which allows amateurs to compete with other players and gradually get closer to the level of professionals.

As a company, we are ready to offer actions to our government that will help young people who are interested in competitive gaming to try themselves in this field. We are talking about lectures, workshops with professional players and competition commentators, participation in TV-shows to promote the industry, a school for esports commentators and analysts, the creation of leagues based on universities, and more.