Update: Following the publication of this story, sources familiar with the situation told TEA that this action by the IESF basically means that until the next general meeting occurs and the RESF status is addressed, the federation won’t be allowed to vote. But they also added that the RESF will likely have its status restored prior to the IESF’s next big international event in Riyadh this summer and Russian competitors will probably be allowed to participate under their own flag.
Original Story: The International Esports Federation (IESF) announced that it has suspended the membership of the Russian Esports Federation (RESF) following a complaint from the Ukrainian Esports Federation (UESF). The UESF filed a formal complaint after the RESF established offices within “Ukrainian territorial boundaries,” or occupied territory captured during military action on the part of the Russian government.
Following up on the initial complaint, the organization’s Membership Committee conducted an investigation, consulted with other members, and held meetings with both the RESF and the UESF. Ultimately, the IESF concluded that the RESF violated rules outlined in ARTICLE E31, subarticle (i):
“To respect the sovereignty of other members. A Member shall not interfere in internal affairs of another national federation unless requested to do so by such Member.”
Following its investigation, the IESF Membership Committee made a recommendation to its board that the RESF’s membership in good standing should be suspended. Board members then voted in a secret ballot, ruling in favor of the recommendation. Ultimately, this means that competitors under the auspices of the RESF can still compete but must do so under the IESF neutral flag, and not under Russia’s flag.
The IESF said in a release that the “suspension of RESF’s good standing will be in effect until the General Assembly, where all full members of the IESF will decide whether to fully suspend RESF or reinstate their good standing, or until the RESF remedies the cause of the suspension.”
“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
In September of 2023, The Esports Advocate reported that member federations of the IESF voted to reinstate Russia and allow esports athletes from the country to fly their flag during competitions starting in 2024. Russia had been excluded from participation in events in the past due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. A statement from the Russian Esports Federation announcing its reinstatement at the time also claimed that 32 delegates voted in favor of reinstatement, 13 against, and 25 abstained.
At the time, Ukraine’s national CS:GO and Dota 2 teams withdrew from the IESF World Esports Championship 2023 in protest of the vote. Other members also publicly expressed their disappointment in the decision. One person who pushed back on the UESF’s decision to boycott the games was prominent esports personality James Banks—a Ukrainian citizen:
“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.”
Thirteen members joined the UESF in opposing the IESF’s decision to reinstate Russia at the time 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.