KeSPA cries foul over OCA’s decision to partner with AliSports

Shounak Sengupta

26th, May, 2017
Recently we revealed the Olympic Council of Asia aka OCA’s decision to include Esports as demonstration sports at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat later this year. Following this announcement from the OCA, the Korean e-Sports Association or KeSPA have released an official statement stating that they have declined to take part in the event. This could have some significant ramifications with KeSPA being one of the first successfully functioning governing bodies for esports.
What is KeSPA?
KeSPA is the governing body for esports in South Korea. They are immensely active in the South Korean esports scene and have done some pretty significant work for the esport ecosystem in the country. Some of their work includes setting up regulations for organizations and players, regularizing salaries, broadcasting and promoting various titles, creating general awareness about esports and hosting tournaments. Many countries have tried to set up boards and committees to regularize esport related activities but none have been as successful as KeSPA.
What are KeSPA’s reasons for backing out?
According to this very long statement that they have published, their main reason seems to stem from the fact that the OCA have tied up with AliSports, a private company to help with the organization of esport related activities for events like AIMAG 2017, Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta and Asian Games 2022 in Guangzhou. They also seem to be unhappy about the titles selected for AIMAG 2017, stating that especially to mention the selection of specific game titles, which have not reached any type of consensus with the NOC, National Federation, or the athletes themselves. Moreover, it has been found through investigation, that the announcement to include esports has been conducted without consideration of the athletes, not being eligible to receive support in becoming a member of the national team squad.”
According to KeSPA, AliSports has set up the Asian Esports Federation all by themselves to gain some sort of a foothold in the industry, even though the IeSF or International Esports Federation already exists for such a purpose.
Reading in between the lines               
It’s pretty clear that the primary issue is the involvement of AliSports. AliSports is a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group which in turn are direct competitors of Tencent Holdings. If that doesn’t strike a chord with you, let us remind you that Tencent owns Riot Games, the publisher of League of Legends. Now the 2013 AIMAG at Incheon, had active involvement from KeSPA especially as the tournament was happening on their own soil and even featured League of Legends. But come 2017, Dota 2 has been given preference. Coincidence? Maybe so but that cannot sit too well with the Koreans considering the LoL is the most popular title there. 
To add to this, the IeSF has its headquarters in Korea and although they are an international body, there is that underlying feeling that South Korea does have a powerplay up their sleeve in the IeSF. KeSPA may be feeling a little power drunk and definitely haven’t taken the fact the Asian Esports Federation has been formed, too well.
At the end of the day, regularizing esports and creating more awareness about it can only happen with the help of government-backed organizations. The fact that the OCA is getting into esports means that now national Olympic bodies too will be trying to set up their own systems to try and develop esports in their respective countries. While there are genuine doubts raised by KeSPA, it still remains unclear as to what action will be taken against it and the impact it will have on the OCA’s decision/s in the future. This is, however, a very important story that could some very significant impacts on the global esports scene and we will be following the story as it develops so do stay tuned. 

The full stament from KeSPA can be read below :


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