The Inaugural Israeli Esports Forum Concluded in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, Israel – the 1st Israeli Esports Forum, organized by the Israeli Esports Association and produced by “People & Computer Productions” was successfully concluded in Tel Aviv. The forum was the first international esports conference held in Israel, with about 100 visitors including industry professionals, government representatives, authorities, sports clubs, pro players, investors, and entrepreneurs. The Forum, held at “BE-ALL Alon” in Tel Aviv and sponsored by “BE-ALL” shared working spaces, Maccabi World Union, and Playtika, had various speakers representing all stakeholders of the Esports industry, from technological and entrepreneurial angles to the regulatory perspectives, presenting the varied ranges of challenges the industry faces today. “The Esports industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today. Last year, it generated $1.1Bn in revenues,” said Ido Brosh, president of the Israeli Esports Association, during the opening remarks. According to Brosh, “Israel is a high-tech and technological superpower, and therefore, it is only natural to promote it into a leading position in the competitive sports of tomorrow – Esports.” “Imagine,” said Brosh, “a world with no limits of gender, skin color, disability or borders – this world already exists, and it is man-made: the cyber world, now accessible to almost all citizens of Earth via the internet.”
How does a Cyber-Sport look like?
In Esports, Brosh noted, “There are many professional teams, organizations, tournaments, and gamers who train for hours and days, alongside professional coaches, fitness trainers, psychologists, and nutritionists – as the science dictates it is impossible to concentrate and play in the best possible manner without being physically fit. The only difference is that this sport takes place in a virtual world.” To manage a sport, he explained, “an associative organization is required, and the Israeli Esports Association is gradually becoming such a sports-association for Israeli Esports, in cooperation with the Israeli ministry of Sports and per the accepted practices of sports in Israel.” “A decade ago, nine countries established the International Esports Federation – IESF. In 2010 we founded the Israeli Esports Association and joined IESF.” According to Ido, “we hold the national championships every year, each time in different host cities. The upcoming national championship will take place in the city of Herzliya, and the winners will participate as the Israeli National Team in IESF’s Esports World Championship, taking place this December in Seoul, South Korea.” “We are here to institutionalize and serve as an anchor for the competitive gaming industry in Israel,” said Brosh, “we create rules and regulations for official tournaments, to promote clarity for both organizers and players. We already have a referee training program, and plan to launch a coaches training program next year.” “We are creating a new sport for Israel,” concluded Brosh. “Esports is not only the sport of the future, but also an industry that is leading innovation throughout the gaming sector, and we are working to advance the field alongside the Ministry of Sports and Culture.”
“Therefore, we will submit a bid to host the IESF’s 2020 Esports World Championship in Israel.”
“The Next-Generation Sports requires Next-Generation Solutions”
The forum included a panel on Technology in Esports, which dealt with the technological solutions of hi-tech companies and start-ups, especially those based in Israel, which provide players, teams, organizations, tournament organizers, Esports federations, game developers and publishers, the technological tools they need to address the challenges facing the industry. The panel was hosted by IESA’s board member Mr. Yoav Sochen, with speakers such as Adv. Tal Itzhak-Ron, CEO of Tal Ron, Drihem & Co Law firm, and Chairman of the Israeli Digital Games Association (GameIS), Mr. Guy Ben-Dov. Following up on that, the Forum hosted a panel about Esports Investments, specifically for young start-ups operating in the field and investors beginning to understand the potential of Esports-related companies. The investors’ point of view was represented by Mr. Kevin Baxpheler, CEO of Remagine Ventures investments group, which focuses, among other things, on Esports investments. The panel also included Mr. Or Briga, CEO of NOVOS.GG, who develops an online platform for training gamers. Mr. Briga represented the viewpoint of startups in this panel.
The Road to the Olympics Passes Through Maccabiah
In recent years, international media had begun to cover the increasing interest of international sports bodies, governmental organizations and national sports authorities to recognize and adopt Esports as an official sport and include it as an Olympic sport. However, the main challenge facing those organizations today is that most competitions are privately owned, as well as the game-titles status as IP belonging to publishers and developers. To overcome these challenges and unite all the bodies dealing with these issues, the International Esports Federation (IESF) was formed. Mr. Leopold Chung, secretary-general of the IESF, presented the South-Korea-based IESF in the Forum. He explained that IESF does not aim at “replacing” private organizations, but is positioning itself to play a much more significant role: to represent and protect the interests of the participating athletes, as well as to serve as a central coordinating body between governmental bodies, the IOC, and the relevant stakeholders of the Esports industry. In doing so, IESF creates an eco-system for the industry and serves as an essential unifying body in an otherwise decentralized, privately-led sport. The presentation was followed by the National Federations Panel, discussing the role of the national Esports federations. The panel speakers came from a variety of European federations. The panel was hosted by Mr. Ido Brosh, representing Israel, and participants included Mr. Hans Jagnow, president of the ESBD (German Esports Federation); Mr. Adam Bäcklin, board member of the Swedish Esports Federation; Mr. Samy Ouerfelli, board member of France Esports; and Ms. Yvonne Scheer, head of communications and gender-equality at the Austrian Esports Association.
The final panel of the second half of the event dealt with the integration of Esports as part of international sports events, like the Olympics, and participating speakers included: Mr. Colin Webster, president of the IESF; Mr. Roy Hessing, CEO of the Maccabi Games (Maccabiah); Adv. Boaz Sity, IESA’s legal advisor and expert in sports-law in Israel and the European Union; and Mr. Idan Glaser, professional IESA-registered Hearthstone player. The panel gave visitors a rare glimpse into the perspective of a large international sports organization – the Maccabi World Union, which organizes the Maccabiah Games, the 3rd largest sporting event in the world (after the Olympics and the UJA). Roy Hessing, the Maccabiah CEO, said Esports “is a great way to reach new and young audiences that shares the values of the Maccabi movement and the values of Sports – but as a new sports – Esports.” However, at least as far as the Olympics are concerned, the process may still take time, according to Adv. Boaz Sity. “The IOC still does not understand the potential of Esports and is currently talking about sport-simulation games (like VR 3D Golf). Therefore, the organizations active within Esports must continue making the efforts to emphasize the sport’s values and uniqueness.” Maccabi World Union began a fruitful partnership with the Israeli Esports Association several months ago, some of which is now known, and most of which still confidential. As part of this partnership, the MWU sponsored the Israeli Esports Forum, and the IESA hosted an Esports session in the MWU Congress held earlier this week in Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan. The two bodies announced, during the MWU Congress and the Israeli Esports Forum, that they will work together to submit a bid to host IESF’s 2020 Esports World Championship in Israel. If successful, it will be the first time Israel will host an international Esports event.
As a side event, the annual general meeting of the Israeli Esports Association was held during this week. The meeting also hosted the elections for all IESA institutions, namely the President, Board of Directors, and Audit Committee. The elections resulted in the re-election of Mr. Ido Brosh as President of the IESA for another 4-year term. Mr. Yoav Sochen, who previously served as a board member of IESA, was re-elected as a board member, as well as Mr. Gil Ronen, who is an active volunteer for IESA and previously served as a member of the Audit Committee. On Saturday, 18th May, the new board will be convened for the first time, in which the president had stated he plans to present the plans for the rest of 2019, including the annual Israeli Esports Championships and the strategic establishment of an official institution to represent the athletes within the IESA.