eSports international esports federation Interview

Meet the Member: “I fell in love with Esports because it doesn’t matter about physical differences between people”

April 26, 2023

The Esports industry is growing at a rapid speed, to find out what the International Esports Federation is doing we caught up with its President Vlad Marinescu. We discussed the challenges the industry faces, what it can learn from traditional sport and what makes a great host city for a World Championships.

Vlad, take us through your journey in sport and how did you end up at the International Esports Federation?

I have always been around sport from a really early age, my father was actually massive in the martial arts space in Romania so naturally that was a sport I had to pick up. As I suspect is the case with so many people you interview, sports played a massive role in founding me as a person.

In terms of esports, I have always been a bit of a gamer. When I was growing up in California we used to take the old LAN Router out of the school at the weekend and take it to someone’s house and just play games from Friday evening through to Sunday morning. It was so much harder to game back then because you couldn’t just turn on a controller like you can now, this is where my passion for technology started. 

This is where I fell in love with Esports because I realised it doesn’t matter what the physical differences between two people are, it just comes down to who is better at the game. 

Going back to my work in traditional sport, I got involved in martial arts and helped organise my first Olympic Games for Judo at Beijing. The skills I learnt in the traditional sports world helped so much when it came to working and leading the International Esports Federation.  

How different has it been working for an Esports Federation to your previous positions?

As I touched on in my last answer I was so fortunate for everything that I learnt while working with Judo and SportAccord. In my role at the International Judo Federation we were organising 20 events a year and doing so much for it with TV rights, prize money, TV production and also working on the Olympics and with the IOC as well. 

I understood very quickly that the differences between passion and professionalism and throughout the lifecycle of a federation, traditionally, we can see that at the beginning of the federation, you have passionate people, people who love that, that’s their sport, they’ve grown up in it, they bleed it, they breathe it, they cry it, they’ll do anything for it. As the sport develops, professionally, and financially, you start having more professional people. Like I said I was really lucky to be able to learn from all these different people, which meant when I came into lead the International Esports Federation I was in a good place. 

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The team here are so passionate about Esports, it really is amazing and especially working through the pandemic we really came together as a team and evolved like so many different federations. Esports and gaming really took off in the pandemic as well, in many ways I think it saved a lot of people’s mental health, because it enabled people to socialise even without social distancing.

What are the challenges that Esports faces as an industry in order to grow?

Like so many sports the pandemic meant we couldn’t host our 2020 World Championships in person. I do acknowledge that we were probably in a better position than most when it came to moving events online but it still wasn’t easy. What has emerged though is actually a much better World Championships as a result. Instead of a ten-day in-person event the Championship’s now last three months. Starting with national qualifying events which take place online and then build up to an in-person finals in the host city. The three month build up to the finals gives us better opportunities to create narratives around players, get fans invested and also it is fantastic for the host cities because they get a big increase in exposure.

We also have a fantastic team here, I am incredibly confident that whatever challenges we are facing as a sport we will be able to overcome together.

Coming from the traditional federation world, how do you see Esports fitting into the olympics?

The International Olympic Committee has just undergone the Olympic Esports week. I’m very happy to see them taking a strong direction in assisting the International Federation to modernise and to control and develop what they want to do with Esports. 

We also need more people playing sports generally and if Esports can lead to that along with traditional sports then that is a massive positive.

There’s obviously esports which is professional gaming and then there is using informal gaming as a route towards increasing participation in the sport. Do you think both can help each other grow?

I mean, how many hours do you have. Firstly, learning about the rules and how to play a sport through gaming definitely leads to people taking up the sport for real. 

We are also partnering together with fitgamer to instil such principles of physical fitness around the sports athletes. It’s very evident through all the research and the studies that have been conducted, from all the research papers that in order to be very successful in Esports. If you’re physically healthy, as well, you will have a higher capacity of delivery, and of course, a better result.

It’s one of our top priorities, to ensure the physical competencies, and mental health and lifestyle of all our sports athletes.

In your view, what can traditional sports learn from Esports and what can Esports learn from traditional sports?

Esports has a lot to learn from traditional sports values, particularly the Olympic values which underpin so many great things about sports. A few of these values are socialisation and teamwork which can easily be lost in an Esports setting. We are increasingly trying to get these values into Esports and overtime we will be able to implement them.

What Esports can give back to traditional sports is modernisation and fun and access most importantly, to a young demographic of people who today are not interested as much in the participation of traditional sports nor viewing it. 

I think there is a massive value exchange to be had between Esports and traditional sports, it is definitely something that we are looking to facilitate. 

Looking forward you’re looking to find host cities for World Championships in 2024 and 2025. With Esports being different to traditional sports, what sort of requirements are you looking for from a host city?

We obviously need the technological infrastructure to start with which most cities do have but it is a pretty key element of what we are doing. We are getting a lot of interest from cities because of the young demographic that we bring in and give them an opportunity to communicate with. 

It isn’t just about the cities and an arena though it is about the environment. We want to give our athletes and spectators the opportunity to visit and experience great culture, great food and music. We want a city that is going to really buy into it with us and really try and show themselves off as much as possible.

eSports international esports federation Interview