IESF set to lift restrictions on Russian players, says Russian Esports Federation

IESF World Esports Championships 2023 opening ceremony
Image credit: International Esports Federation (IESF) via Twitter (X)

The International Esports Federation (IESF) has voted to let Russian players compete under their own name and flag, according to the Russian Esports Federation.

IESF members initially voted to suspend Russian players from competing under their country’s name and banned the Russian flag and symbols in April 2022 after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

ESI London 2024

In a statement on its website, the Russian Esports Federation stated that during a meeting on August 28th, IESF members voted to strike down IESF’s original April 2022 decision to bar Russian representation from international competitions.

The statement claims 32 delegates voted in favour of Russia’s re-admittance, while 13 voted against and 25 abstained. Russia’s statement additionally claimed that a separate proposal put forward by Ukraine’s esports federation to suspend Russia’s esports federation from IESF entirely was rejected.

IESF has not publicly confirmed that such a meeting or vote took place. Esports Insider has reached out to IESF for confirmation but the organisation has not yet responded.

Dmitry Smith, President of the Russian Esports Federaton (or Russian Computer Sports Federation), said in the translated statement: “Sport should unite, and any form of discrimination against athletes based on nationality and any other grounds is unacceptable. Therefore, we are glad that we were able to achieve the cancellation of the previous decision, and our team will finally compete under its own flag.”

The meeting reportedly took place during IESF’s ongoing World Esports Championship 2023 in Iași, Romania.

Additionally, according to a report by The Esports Advocate, motions related to gender equality and LGBT topics were also presented and rejected during the meeting.

Many esports companies severed ties with Russian esports organisations and companies in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine and resulting sanctions. The invasion is still ongoing a year and a half later.

Prominent Ukrainian companies such as WePlay terminated business ties completely with Russian entities, while Western stakeholders largely cut ties with companies that had government links or that publicly expressed support for the war.

Last week, Swedish esports organisation Ninjas In Pyjamas drew widespread backlash after Richard Lewis revealed the organisation had scrubbed all statements and comments in support of Ukraine in order to appease its Chinese business partners.

Jake Nordland
Jake has worked at Esports Insider as a journalist and editor since early 2021. Now ESI's Media Manager, he continues to act as lead editor of print magazine The Esports Journal, and contributes his words to the website from time to time.