Russia’s Minister of Sport recognises esports at St. Petersburg Economic Forum

At the latest edition of the St.Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 24th, the annual business event which has been running since 1997, there was a dedicated esports panel session for the very first time.

This gathered ‘representatives of state, business, sports and infrastructure organizations interested in development of esports in Russia’. 

The session, titled ‘Cybersport: Global Trends in Sports and Business’ saw involvement from the likes of ESForce, PepsiCo,, Spartak Moscow and more: 

  • Emin Antonyan, Secretary General, Chairman of the Executive Board, Russian Esports Federation
  • Ilya Galaev, President, VFSO Trudovye Rezervy
  • Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager,
  • Nail Izmailov, Vice President, FC Spartak Moscow
  • Aleksandr Prokopyev, Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Member of the Committee on Physical Culture, Sport, Tourism, and Youth Affairs
  • Neil Sturrock, President for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Caucasus and Central Asia, PepsiCo
  • Anton Cherepennikov, Director, Member of the Board of Directors, ESforce Holding

It was moderated by Match TV general producer Tinatin Kandelaki.

You can watch the full panel right here

Kandelaki presented a summary of the global esports industry’s recent growth, stating that competitive esports events have seen a 25% annual growth in viewership, while the cumulative audience of esports is now approaching that of some traditional sports.
The esports panel at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Courtesy of Roscongress)

ESforce Co-founder Anton Cherepennikov compared esports in Russia with other regions globally: “Russia is among global leaders in both esports infrastructure and the performance of teams with CIS rosters in various disciplines. As for investment into esports, Russia is not among the leaders here due to a limited capacity of the domestic advertising market, notwithstanding that ESforce’s revenue volume is the second largest in the world.”

Cherepennikov pointed to one of the final matches at the recent EPICENTER XL in Dota 2, held in Moscow, which was viewed by 5.2 million viewers across the world on Twitch. He said: “It was Twitch that helped take the esports ecosystem to a new level, even though its origins and early development date back to the 80s. The rapid increase in competition viewership resulted in an interest in esports from investors.” 

ESForce is amongst the largest esports companies in the world, it integrates all areas of the business with tournaments, teams, content sites, publishing houses and more. It owns over 220 online resources. 

Роман Дворянкин | Roman Dvoryankin, (Image courtesy of Roscongress)

Roman Dvoryankin, is GM, a team which is a part of ESforce Holding and that won the Dota 2 Major, ESL One Birmingham at the weekend. He told attendees: “Much like a Brazilian boy kicking a ball around can be spotted by a scout and take his chance at a career in football, so can a 19-year-old young man from Novokuznetsk spend a few hours a day at the local cybercafé, perform well, and go on to become one of the best esports players in the world.”

Here he was referring to Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev, a player on’s Dota 2 roster.

Speaking to attendees in a separate session, Russia’s Minister of Sports Pavel Kolobkov stated that he sees esports as a legitimate sports discipline as it includes all essential characteristics of a sport; training methodology, rules, tournament systems and such. 

Russia’s Minister of Sports also emphasised how the International Olympic committee has changed its perception towards esports, it was not long ago that the IOC largely dismissed the possibility of including esports in the Olympic Games and there are now plans being made in that regard.

Kolobkov noted that he doesn’t see esports will as replacing traditional sports but that they will coexist. He also stated that the Russian government is keen to work together with the esports industry to develop adequate regulations to ensure stable development of esports in Russia.

Russia became the first country to officially recognise esports back in 2001, at which point it was included into the list of sports officially existing in Russia. A complicated period in this regard then ensued with esports twice leaving the official list of sporting disciplines following a restructuring of the Ministry of Sports. It regained its place in June 2016, and since the end of 2017, esports players have been able to earn official sporting grades (I, II and III). 

In the year 2000 a body called the Russian Esports Federation was established. This organisation was created in order to elaborate on official esport rules and regulations and submit them to the Ministry of Sports, elaborate and submit regulations for state sport grades and grant players with sport grades, and submit competition plans into the state annual competition calendar, carry out official esport events, including official esport Championship of Russia. Also under its mandate was to form and train the official national esport team, and to qualify esports referees; and other rights in accordance with the state sport legislation.

We asked ESForce exactly how independent the Russian Esports Federation, for which is it an infrastructure partner, is from the company. A statement from ESforce Holding Press Service was the following: “The Russian Esports Federation (RESF), being a public non-profit organization, is completely independent from ESforce Holding. Given that RESF is officially responsible in Russia for the development of mass esports, and ESforce is the largest esports holding in the country, we cooperate in the framework of friendly partnership relations.”

On the subject of the RESF’s viewpoint on esports pending involvement in the Olympics, and how they see is going down, Dmitry Smit, President of the Russian Esports Federation told Esports Insider: “We believe that since boxing and taekwondo are Olympic sports, then esports must take its place on the Olympus. We are sure that in the battles of fantastic characters in the virtual world, as it happens, for example, in Dota 2 or League of Legends, there is no particular level of violence (which is what the IOC is now moving against).

“If we assume that esports will become an Olympic sport in stages, as separate disciplines, then first of all simulators, MOBA and RTS should enter.”

Esports Insider says: An established event such as the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum including a dedicated esports panel says it all. As an industry people can no longer stand by as esports becomes too big to ignore. The way we see it, this is positive news from Russia’s Minister of Sport as the country will look to ensure its proper involvement in the Olympics. The Russian Esports Federation backing its involvement with MOBAs and not just sports simulation titles as some have assumed would be the case too, is interesting.