Esports Awards CEO discusses three-year partnership with Esports World Cup

07 June 2024


Esports Awards x Esports World Cup
Image credit: Esports Awards

Esports industry awards show Esports Awards has announced a three-year partnership with Saudi Arabia-backed multi-title esports tournament Esports World Cup (EWC).

As a result, the 2024 Esports Awards ceremony will be held during EWC on August 24th in Riyadh.

ESI Lisbon 2024

In a written interview by Esports Insider, Esports Awards CEO Michael Ashford stated that the three-year deal will see the awards show’s 2024, 2025 and 2026 events be hosted alongside the Esports World Cup, “with an intent to explore longer-term collaborations.”

“The Esports World Cup is well on its way to establishing itself as the biggest competition in esports and competitive gaming history,” said Ashford.

“Having the opportunity to align with an event and festival with so many shared values, that in our opinion will become the global hub for the industry ensures the opportunity to reach the West and East in a way not previously possible.”

Founded in 2015, Esports Awards celebrates esports talent and companies across various categories, such as competition, content creation and media. The partnership with the EWC aims to support the Esports Awards’ expansion with an elevated awards show. This includes an expanded Lifetime Achievement mixer, Red Carpet Event and Esports Village.

The Esports World Cup is a new annual multi-title esports and gaming festival in Saudi Arabia. This year the event will feature a total of 19 titles and an overall prize pool of $60m (~£47.1m). This includes events such as the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Mid Season Cup and the Dota 2 Ryadh Masters.

The event was initially announced by Saudi Arabian Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman and is organised by the government-founded Esports World Cup foundation.

Saudi Arabia’s growing investment in esports has been met with criticism due to the country’s stance on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and censorship. Some voices in the industry have labelled Saudi Arabia’s competitive gaming ventures as ‘esportswashing’, an attempt to distract from its human rights record.

Ashford assured that EWC will have no control over the award nominations or the adjudication process and that Esports Awards will remain an “independently owned and operated entity.”

“The Esports World Cup will work with the Esports Awards to ensure the guest list is a fair representation of the industry whilst helping to ensure club representation is at its highest level,” added Ashford.

esports world cup
The Esports World Cup trophy. Image credit: Esports World Cup Foundation

When asked if the relationship with the Esports World Cup could discourage some companies and individuals from attending or collecting awards, he responded: “We do have a responsibility to ensure individuals have the right to accept and represent their win in their own way.

“We have always allowed for video acceptance of an award. We will also be working to provide a second celebration as a satellite event of the Esports Awards in Riyadh in Q4 2024.”

The 2024 edition will be the first Esports Awards ceremony to come to Saudi Arabia. Fans will be able to vote on Award Finalists on June 27th.

Since the partnership was announced, several notable organisations and individuals within the esports scene have raised concerns regarding the Esports Awards’ integrity and values.

When asked about the potential backlash the announcement could receive, Ashford stated: “The Esports Awards as the de-facto platform for recognition globally has a very unique position in the competitive gaming ecosystem.

“Over the last eight years, we have worked to be a holistic and all-encompassing platform that predicates itself on recognising excellence globally. We have always been mindful that this has been done whilst spending eight years in the West and realistically three years in the UK and five years in the US.

“This is our first opportunity to position ourselves in a destination that has equal opportunities to attend for the East and West and really stand to create a global hub for esports.

“I would refer to the comments made by the SEF in the past and highlight the numerous previously successful events which concluded without any issues or concerns.”

Lea Maas
Lea is a business student with too many passions and too little time. In addition to missing her shots in Valorant, she spends her free time advocating for mental health awareness and fostering inclusive esports communities.