The Commonwealth Esports Forum provided a venue for members of the BEF to lobby for government support in front of a captive audience.

The Commonwealth Esports Championships kicked off today with the official opening and Commonwealth Esports Forum. This exclusive event (with a £295 price tag for tickets) featured a series of panels and showcased some innovative gaming initiatives. And while much of the agenda of the Forum was filled with slightly hollow words like “innovation” and “progress,” the real takeaway message came from members of the British Esports Federation. 

Speaking on the first panel of the day, British Esports Federation chair Andy Payne, OBE, answered the question “How can you help others, and what do you need help with?” Answering on behalf of British Esports, Payne explained that the main assistance the organization could give was connections. Over the past eight years, the Federation has supported esports across the country. In particular, the organization has helped educate many on the benefits of esports, from the financial boons, to the more holistic benefits such as skill building and mental health.

But in response to the second part of the question, “what do you need help with?”, Payne was clear: “We would like a little bit of government support.” The chair of BEF was quick to qualify the statement. “We’re not a handout organization. We’re going to do it anyway. But it would be nice for the grassroots [to get that help].”

This call for government support for esports was echoed by BEF founder and CEO Chester King, who hosted the second panel. “I would like a minister for esports” said King, who added “obviously I’d like us to have a Prime Minister first” making light of the current vacancy in that position.

British Esports attempts to court the UK government

Some of the innovations exhibited at the Commonwealth Esports Forum (Image via Esports.gg)

The Commonwealth Esports Forum was certainly the venue to make the request for government support. UK government representatives were out in force. Among the attendees and speakers were Ranil Jayawardena MP, the UK minister for international trade, the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, and Deborah Cadman, the Chief Executive of the Birmingham City Council. Each politician extolled the virtues of esports and gaming, with figures such as “50,000 new jobs for the region” being stated. Although, at an event based in Birmingham, UK, built around innovation and the future, there was a missed opportunity to echo Birmingham’s city motto of “Forward.”

Ultimately, the Commonwealth Esports Forum was not quite the hotbed of innovation and forward-thinking in the esports space it advertised. Instead, it was more of a chance to bend the ear of movers and shakers in the Commonwealth Games Federation, IOC, UK Government, and other parties across the Commonwealth. 

The real show will be the Commonwealth Esports Championships, whose finals kick off tomorrow (Saturday 6th). Set on an incredible stage with the kind of production we’ve come to expect as esports fans, it’s this kind of spectacle that will readily sway the casual observer towards esports’ many benefits.

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Michael Hassall -

Michael Hassall

| Twitter: @hoffasaurusx

Michael is a UK-based content creator who caught the esports bug in 2010, but took eight years to figure out he should write about it. Throwing away a promising career in marketing and PR, he now specialises in MOBAs, covering League of Legends, Dota 2, and esports in general since 2019. When not glued to tournaments taking place on the other side of the globe, he spends time nurturing an unhealthy addiction to MMOs and gacha games.