Today the IOF has announced the preparation for the first Unofficial World eOrienteering Championships later in 2020. It is unclear though what, when, and how will be organised. The objective is urgent control over the evolving eOrienteering landscape as stated in the Council minutes. It is a late wake up call to deal with something that has been around for years, but now it is so urgent that the Council decided even to violate the IOF’s Statutes with pushing through a unlawfully late proposal on the inclusion of eSports.
Yet, the question “who benefits” from this panicky rush has no clear answer.
Virtual orienteering is nothing new
Virtual orienteering has been around for many years, though it has started to boom only this year due to the limitations on real life events.
This blog has pointed out already in December 2017, two and a half years ago, that
Virtual Orienteering is orienteering’s best chance to get to the Olympics.
The Council has ignored for years the highly visible emergence of eSports until this month. The sudden rush may remind one of the symptoms of narcolepsy when patients wake up suddenly from deep sleep and feel disorientated.
A wake up call
Apparently the wake up call came in the form of a letter from Lockdown Orienteering.
It is clear from the Council Minutes #199 that a plethora of basic things missing, including even the knowledge who are the ones active in the eOrientering world. An IOF concept or strategy regarding the development of eOrienteering appear to be so high level and so distant in the future, that not even mentioned as an issue.
Yet, there is a rush to organise the “World Championships” in 2020.
Don’t know where, don’t know when
The result is a most bizarre announcement on the IOF website about an Unofficial World Orienteering Championships with no clarity on what will be organised, according to what rules and how.
This is particularly strange in the light how cautious the IOF Council gets about even some minor proposals from IOF Commissions and Member Federations on improving existing competitions. Potential reputational damage is often cited as core reason for taking things slowly. Apparently it is not a concern when it comes to eOrienteering.
This feels like sudden sweaty panic.
A rush to break the IOF Statutes
One indication of the overwhelming “OMG, we have to do something fast” feeling is a decision taken on 12 June to modify the IOF Statutes to include eSports on the 10 July General Assembly. On 26 June the new proposal is yet to be included amongst the General Assembly materials on the IOF website.
This clearly violates the Statutes of the IOF.
All proposals have to be submitted 4 months before the GA meeting, except for urgent business. Amendments to the Statutes are explicitly excluded from being considered as urgent business.
The questions, as usual, remains open whether the IOF leadership is not familiar with the rules that are supposed to govern IOF business, or they just do not care.
Unavoidably one should ask the question: who benefits from this rush to organise “something”?
Will the sport benefit from organising the “World Championship” on platforms and formats available here and now – as opposed to a proper consideration of technical and commercial aspects, and allowing vendors to prepare a proposal and do the developments?
Will the IOF benefit from any commercial agreement with the platform(s) chosen for the “World Championship” with no or very limited competition between vendors?
Who will pay for all the development required both for the platform use and for the additional broadcasting capabilities?
What looks very likely is that the chosen platform for the first major event will get a huge advantage over others in achieving near monopoly position, irrespective of its future technical and commercial prospects.
By rushing to organise the “World Championship” the IOF leadership left no time for themselves to consider all the technical and commercial issues in the area of eSports, an area they are utterly unfamiliar with.
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There is no doubt that eSports and within that eOrienteering is an important development that should be managed. Yet when actions are taken hastily as if in a panic, one risks causing unintended harm to the cause, especially when we are talking about something as new and as unfamiliar as eSports. We have to wait with interest and hope to see positive developments.