Earlier this week The Esports Advocate reported that member federations of the International Esports Federation (IESF) voted to reinstate Russia and allow esports athletes from the country to fly their flag during competitions starting in 2024, at its general meeting. Russia had been excluded from participation in events in the past due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. A statement from Russia Esports Federation also claims that 32 delegates voted in favor of reinstatement, 13 against, and 25 abstained.
We also reported that Prince Omar bin Faisal of Jordan and Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan al Saud (the VP of IESF, and “statutory” VP of Saudi Esports Federation) were also in the city of Iași accompanying their countries’ respective teams competing in the IESF World Championship and meeting with local Romanian officials such as Iași Mayor Mihai Chirica.
While TEA is looking into how this vote may or may not have been facilitated based on sources we are currently talking to, the passage of this measure has caused a fair amount of controversy this week, as contingents from Ukraine and other regions have publicly condemned the move by the federation and the members that voted for it.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s national CS:GO and Dota 2 teams withdrew from the IESF World Esports Championship 2023 in protest of the vote.
Esports commentator and personality James Bank, a Ukrainian citizen, pushed back on Ukraine Esports Federation’s decision to exit this year’s competition in an exclusive statement to Players, noting that there are no Russian players competing this year and it would have been a good opportunity to show the strength of its national teams.
“I live in Ukraine, I have family in Ukraine and this war that was started by Russia is an act of terrorism. We all know this. Any chance we have to show the positives of Ukraine and our people is so important and these players have been stripped of that. If it was the players who said they didn’t want to compete then fine but the federation choosing this is the reason why these federations should not exist.” – James Banks.
On Tuesday, SEUL (Federation of Finnish Electronic Sports ) issued a statement condemning the decision, noting:
“The decision is a sad continuation of the farce already seen last year, when the Russian national e-sports federation was set the mildest possible restrictions to participate in the world championships. Now even these restrictions have been lifted, even though the Russian national e-sports federation has, for example, established a branch with its own brand in the territories temporarily seized from Ukraine, regardless of the objections of the Ukrainian national e-sports federation. The Russian eSports Federation promotes Russia’s imperialist policy with its actions, and as a thank you for that, the international sports federation IESF rewards them by removing the sanctions.” – Otto Takala, chairman of the Finnish eSports Federation .
On Friday, 13 members joined the Ukraine Esports Federation in opposing the IESF’s decision including the Armenian Esports Federation, Belgian Esports Federation, Canada Esports Federation, Dutch Esports Federation, Esports Wales, Finnish Esports Federation, French federation of Video games, Icelandic Esports Association, Lithuanian Electronic Sports Association, Luxemburg Esports Federation, Malta Esports Association, Norwegian Esports Federation, and the Swedish Esports Federation.
On Saturday, the IESF issued a press release entitled “Facts regarding OGM 2023 decision and Russian / Ukrainian Participation.” We have included the full statement below, though it should be noted that TEA reached out to representatives of the federation for further comment prior to the publication of this story, and will update this story should the IESF provide additional information. The press release:
The International Esports Federation, which unites 140 National Federations, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Iasi, Romania, on 28 August during the 15th World Esports Championship Finals.
110 National Federations actively participated in the AGM, discussing the agenda that consisted of 44 motions that were voted on. One motion submitted by the Russian Esports Federation was to enable the future participation of athletes from Russia in 2024 to play under their national flag and anthem.
No Russian team was present this year at the World Championship, and no Russian delegate was present at the AGM.
After voicing their opinions, all 70 Members in attendance held a democratic vote, which resulted in Votes Against, 32 in Favor and 25 Abstentions.
The Ukrainian Esports Federation representatives did not accept the vote result and declined to meet with IESF leadership to discuss options to assist them in this difficult situation. The decision will go into effect for next year’s World Esports Championship, scheduled for late 2024.
The IESF team and the Athletes Committee were in place to assist and support all Ukrainian players, as athletes are at the core of what IESF is about. The Ukrainian teams were doing well in the tournament. In CS:GO, they were qualified for the Semi-Final Match.
With athletes’ interests at its core, the IESF Athletes Committee did all it could to mitigate the unfortunate situation of Ukrainian players and the Ukrainian Esports Federation, who informed IESF they would withdraw their teams from this year’s competition.
IESF strongly condemns all war, hate, political interventions and discrimination. Sport provides us with a unique platform for peacebuilding and future conflict prevention. We expect all members of the World Esports Family to use this platform for positive change and to embody IESF’s values of respect, unity and friendship.
IESF will continue to strive for peace and unity while firmly standing by all democratic processes made within the organization and, above all, supporting and protecting the athletes.