Ian Smith talks about his work as Integrity Commissioner at Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), the key differences between traditional sports and esports, as well as the advantages of esports for betting providers in an interview with Betting in face of COVID-19.
Ian is an authoritative representative of the global esports ecosystem. He is a British lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in traditional sports. Expert has taken executive positions at such sports organizations as the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the Federation of International Cricketers Associations, PGA European Tour golf etc.
Interviewer: Betting in face of COVID-19 (BifoCOVID-19)
Respondent: Ian Smith (I. S.)
BifoCOVID-19: You’ve been holding executive positions in traditional sports organizations. Why did you choose the esports sphere?
I. S.: It chose me in a sense – I was approached by a large media company that had made some significant esports investments to carry out an integrity threat assessment of the industry in 2015 and I had to learn what esports was and, in the process of doing that and starting ESIC as a result, I came to really enjoy the esports community and world and have been involved in it ever since.
BifoCOVID-19: In your opinion, what are the key differences between esports and traditional sports?
I. S.: The most important difference is that the games are owned by publisher/developer companies and exist in a commercial context to make profits. Nobody owns football or tennis or rugby, but somebody does own League of Legends or CS:GO and that owner can decide who gets to play the game and on what terms and can also change the game in any way at any time, and they often do. Can you imagine FIFA deciding that, from tomorrow, footballs will be bigger and weigh more or that there will be four goals instead of two? In esports, that kind of change to a game happens all the time.
BifoCOVID-19: What are some of your duties as a Commissioner at Esports Integrity Coalition?
I. S.: First, to ensure that the ESIC Anti-Corruption Code has been properly incorporated into our members’ terms and conditions of participation. Second, to ensure our education programme is fit for purpose and reaching the people it needs to reach. Third, to ensure our monitoring of suspicious and unusual betting activity in esports is the best it can be.
Fourth is reacting to reports of suspicious betting as quickly and effectively as possible and determining whether what I’m seeing indicates a fixed match or whether there is some other, legitimate explanation for why the betting is behaving as it is. Fifth is to investigate potential fixing and see if prosecutions are justified and possible. Sixth is to prosecute those cases and try and get any guilty parties punished and out of the ecosystem to preserve competitive integrity in esports and prevent betting fraud. Throughout this process I work with our esports and betting members to guide them through the process and make it as easy as possible.
BifoCOVID-19: Being a lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in traditional types of sports, what legal regulation prospects are there for the esports segment?
I. S.: Currently, very little prospect of a “governing body” or central regulation that resembles anything like what exists in traditional sports. There are a lot of reasons for this, but it boils down to the fact that “esports” is a collective term that covers a lot of very different games owned by different companies and followed by different communities. They are as different as rugby is from boxing, so finding common ground and consensus is extremely difficult. I think a good start would be gathering everyone into ESIC to deal with integrity issues that are common to all of esports. There are other common issues like youth protection and live event safety and security, but let’s start with integrity.
BifoCOVID-19: Talking about Sports Integrity Matters, what activities is your company involved in? Please tell a little bit about your clients.
I. S.: I advise traditional sports organisations on a range of issues around sports integrity – I was, until very recently, Head of Integrity for the PGA European Tour golf (put on hold as there is currently no golf) and I advise the League Managers Association (football) on a wide range of regulatory and governance issues. I conduct investigations into allegations of cheating and corruption in sports and occasionally prosecute and defend sportsmen accused of disciplinary offences. I do this in football, motor racing, cricket and rugby. I produce anti-corruption education programmes and I speak internationally on integrity issues, especially those at the intersection of sports and betting on sports.
BifoCOVID-19: What benefits for the betting arise from esports? Could this be a priority for betting providers during the pandemic?
I. S.: Yes, esports – is more or less the only legitimate competitive activity available to sports books at the moment and there is a lot of it and a reasonably mature and professional data and trading function available commercially, so markets can be set up and offered very quickly.
BifoCOVID-19: What will you talk about at Betting in face of COVID-19 online conference?
I. S.: How esports can fill the current void and how it can be offered safely.
On April 17, Ian will speak at the online conference. Join Betting in face of COVID-19 aimed at the EU market to learn about the best anti-crisis strategies for betting businesses!