The eSports industry is about to get a new body with the aim of establishing anti-corruption standards and “addressing emerging risks to the integrity of professional competitions.”
The owner of ESL and Dreamhack, Swedish digital entertainment group MTG, commissioned British sports lawyer Ian Smith to develop the new industry association.
ESL and Dreamhack will be founding members of the new organization.
Big day in esports integrity as ESL admins attend their first Anti-Corruption Code training in Cologne – it was fun!
— Ian T Smith (@bristollawyer) April 14, 2016
Smith has an extensive background in combating sports corruption, through his legal consultancy Sports Integrity Matters, and in his former positions as legal director of the Professional Cricketers’ Association and COO of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations.
eSports is at a crucial stage
Smith sees the eSports industry as being at a critical stage in its development. He says that at the moment, even including the recent Korean Starcraft scandal, match fixing and corruption is at a low level.
“This is really Mickey Mouse fixing. It’s lowlevel, smallbananas stuff — x hundred dollars there, x thousand dollars there.”
However, Smith believes the real risk will come as the industry grows. He estimates that in 2015, the eSports betting market turned over around $250 million.
“When a market goes to, by 2018 — if you include the legitimate and illegitimate [gambling] markets — $50 [billion], $60 [billion], maybe $70 billion, which personally I think is a conservative estimate —then suddenly esport becomes interesting to the very people you do not want interested in esport.
Because that’s when serious fixers get involved. That’s when organized crime gets interested.”
Match fixing is the most important issue
From his experience Smith sees four main categories of eSports corruption.
- Manipulating the game to cheat
- Disrupting a competitor’s internet connection
- Match fixing
Of these, match fixing is the most important. Smith says that a good sports game can survive a match-fixing scandal, but that the same is not true in eSports:
“If match fixing becomes rampant, the spectator aspect of that game dies because no one believes what they’re watching.”
Smith is scathing about the current measures to combat corruption.
“At the moment, not only is there no silver bullet, there’s no gun and there’s no target. You have to start with fundamentals, you’ve got to have the right rules in place, because esport doesn’t.”
First steps involve a common code of practice
As a first step to those fundamentals, Smith is proposing the establishment of a code of practice that the major competitions and eSports companies can agree to implement across the industry.
Although he doesn’t mention the use of big data to help in the process, the entry of companies such as Sportradar is already preparing the technological ground for making eSports a clean competition where bettors can trust the games’ integrity.
The new organization will look to set common standards, and point competition organizers and betting operators in the direction of the tools which can help them maintain the integrity of their business.