Argentina is close to becoming the first country in Latin America where professional players are recognised as athletes by law.
Behind the project is the Argentinian Esports Association (AADE in Spanish), a non-profit that has been working since 2014 for the recognition of the players in Argentina, led by Luis Regalini.
In 2015, the AADE became an official member of the International Esports Federation (IeSF). In 2017, the organisation started working on a new bill to regulate esports in the country.
The goals are well established in the bill written in 2016 and introduced in 2018 in the Argentinian Chamber of Deputies. These goals can be divided into two general categories, promotion, and recognition.
Esports is a fast-growing industry worldwide, especially in Latin America, a continent that consists of 20 countries with three official languages. The AADE, through the bill, will promote esports in Argentina with competitions across the country. The reach of the project goes beyond Buenos Aires, the capital, with interstate leagues that will include colleges, high schools, and clubs.
Every player taking part in the new leagues will be considered an athlete with duties and rights before the law. Once esports receive the recognition as a discipline, it will be included in the National Sports System (SND in Spanish) and will no longer qualify as gambling.
The AADE is aiming to protect the established players but also the emerging athletes. One of the goals is to create regulation that prevents a sedentary lifestyle in the athletes.
The teams are now legally recognised by the government. The registered teams will have duties before the government but also benefits, including the different programs the country offer to professional athletes.
TIME TO BUILD
Luis Regalini, president of the AADE said: “If there’s a law backing up esports, the government is under the obligation to invest, especially in the infrastructure necessary for the development of players that are competing locally and representing the country internationally.”
As esports become popular in Latin America, the appropriate infrastructure becomes necessary. In North America and Asia, esports-exclusive facilities are becoming a common occurrence but this trend has yet to catch up in the south.
In the bill, the AADE proposes two types of necessary infrastructures: arenas, and high-performance centres. These facilities will provide immense benefit to not only the athletes in Argentina but also the industry in Latin America as a whole. Argentina could potentially become the prime esports destination in Latin America for teams looking to train at the maximum level and event organisers looking for a venue to host major competitions.
Since its introduction, the project is facing strong opposition, led mainly by team owners. The controversy started when the deputies introduced articles 3 and 4 into the original project.
Article 3 states: “This law rejects violent video games and everything that shows images of fury, aggression or cruelty […] Games belonging to the following genres: real-time strategy, digital collectible cards, and sports are considered esports those.”
Article 4 states: “Games in the first person shooter genre, where the player sees the world from the character’s perspective are not considered esports.”
These two articles exclude FPS, fighting games, MOBA, among other genres. In Latin America, FPS and fighting games are some of the most popular genres with vibrant competitive scenes that include thousands of players across the continent.
Regarding the controversial articles, Regalini said: “The government cannot decide which games should be included or not. Those articles were written by conservative deputies without knowledge about the matter. If sports like boxing are part of the Olympic Games, why should we exclude fighting games where the players are not actually receiving any kind of damage?”
The AADE is ready to counter the arguments made by the Chamber of Deputies with reports from Spain backing up the inclusion of games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
THE OTHER SIDE
The opposition is rejecting the bill but also the mere existence of the AADE.
On a statement shared on Facebook regarding the new bill, the Argentinian Association of Esports and Video Games (DEVA in Spanish), an organisation with a similar purpose, wrote: “The AADE does not have any legitimation provided by the players, teams or esports event organisers […] We are of the belief that a bill that impacts on the individual rights of the people involved in the esports scene that today is constituted in Argentina, necessarily requires a debate by all the protagonists.”
In order to open the debate, the AADE hosted several open forums.
Regarding the results of the forums, Regalini said: “Those that attend the forums are against the project but do not have suggestions to improve the bill.”
This situation became evident when Esports Insider requested a comment from four different individuals being vocal on social media about their opposition.
A team owner, that shall remain nameless, said that he was “against the bill but not the project”. Another team owner claimed that the bill was “poorly researched and simply absurd” when asked about which part of the bill was poorly researched, the team owner stopped replying to the messages. The other two agreed to be interviewed but never replied to the questions.
OWNERS VS PLAYERS?
The root of the problem goes deeper than a simple disagreement between organisations and individuals.
Regalini explains the situation as: “The elite against the players.”
Breach of contracts, poor conditions, and negligence from the owners are some of the things esports athletes must face. As regulators, the AADE will create rules that teams and players must follow in order to belong to the association. Going against the rules will have consequences for the teams.
Legal projects are necessary if esports wish to keep growing. Right now, the industry is at a turning point, esports are no longer something that a few people enjoy. Esports are now global with important companies pouring millions into organisations and tournaments.
The bill is still up for discussion and it is impossible to predict the outcome. In the meanwhile, the AADE keeps leading the efforts to change esports in Latin America.