Esports is now officially a sport, at least in Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Sport now recognizes esports as a sport discipline, Russian news site AIF reports. Starting on June 18, esports players will be able to earn titles such as “Russian Master of Sports,” “International Master of Sports,” and “Honored Master of Sports of Russia.”
Those ranks essentially recognize players for their performance in official competitions. It’s unclear yet as to what esports games and events will be labelled official competitions, but it’s another step forward for esports in Russia, one of the veteran esports nations.
Russia became the first country to recognize esports officially way back in 2001, but five years later new administration decided to revoke that status. Now, with esports’ massive growth on a global scale, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore. Russia boasts many successful players and teams, like Virtus.pro, which received up to $100 million from an investment firm backed by a Russian billionaire.
As to what this means for esports as a whole, that’s harder to say. Russian players regularly have visa issues, like the ones that prevented the roster of the famous Moscow 5 League of Legends team from continuing to compete in the European League Championship Series. But those stem from laws in Germany, whose government inexplicably continues to ignore esports despite the nation hosting more esports competitions than any other country in Europe. While this announcement may not solve some of the issues Russian esports players face when competing abroad, it’s only a good thing for competitors in a country with a long esports history.