National esports body British Esports Federation has signed a partnership with the Saudi Esports Federation to collaborate on national and cross-national projects.
The British Esports Federation (British Esports) said the ‘historic’ partnership will involve a range of initiatives such as projects, events and activations, that plan to develop esports talent. This includes the likes of ‘cultural exchange programmes’, internships, bootcamps, esports training programmes and educational initiatives.
The partnership was signed during the UK Department for Business and Trade’s ongoing ‘Esports Trade Mission’ in Saudi Arabia. The press release states that the aim is to foster connections and explore opportunities in the Saudi Arabian esports landscape.
The agreement between British Esports and Saudi Esports will see both parties host ‘home and away’ matches featuring UK and Saudi esports athletes. These will take place at British Esports’ National Esports Performance Campus in Sunderland and during Gamers8 in 2024.
The partnership announcement was quickly met with community criticisms on social media. The Saudi Esports Federation is run by the Saudi Arabian government, a country that is criticised for its human rights record and laws when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights and censorship.
There are also growing concerns about Saudi Arabia’s influence in the esports sector, with the term ‘esportswashing’ being utilised to describe the country’s decision to invest heavily in the sector.
However, British Esports claimed in the announcement that the partnership showcases the commitment of both federations to fostering “international cooperation and growth within the esports industry and heralds an exciting era of opportunity, investment and development.”
The UK Department of Trade’s Esports Mission to Saudi Arabia is a UK government-led trade mission where representatives from ten UK companies have travelled to Riyadh to discuss the “varying opportunities that Saudi Arabia has to offer,” according to the Mission’s webpage.
HRH Prince Faisal Bin Bandar bin Sultan, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, commented on the news: “Saudi Esports Federation is constantly evolving and creating new pathways for players to gain new experience, and our cooperation with the British Esports Federation will play a key role in fostering talents and unite the esports community.
“By joining forces, I’m sure that we can create a platform that empowers players, cultivates innovation, and paves the way for a thriving esports industry in both nations and beyond.”