The Luxembourg esports ecosystem has experienced a boost since the beginning of the pandemic and seen the creation of three major tournaments. At the same time, esports is still not officially recognized as a sport in the Grand Duchy which represents a big hurdle in the development of esports structures.
While esports has been growing steadily over the past decade, the recent pandemic led to a tremendous acceleration in its development. Especially during the first lockdown when traditional sports came to a halt, many sponsors shifted their focus to esports.
New tournaments, new sponsors
In Luxembourg, several tournaments have emerged over the past months, all of which were sponsored by telecommunication companies.
The biggest tournament, the Post Esports Master, organized by the media and gaming group 11F Luxembourg, took place this year for the second time. The event was played in three different games (FIFA 21, Clash Royale, and League of Legends) for a total prize money of €20,000. Last year, around 500 players took part in the qualifications round and over 8,000 people watched the finals.
Another event is the Tango High School Cup, the first inter-school esports tournament for secondary school students. Organized by Esports organization 4Elements, it included two games (Fortnite and Brawl Stars) for a total prize money of €10,000. For its 1st edition in 2021, 550 participants from 38 different secondary schools took part in the tournament.
Lack of recognition
Despite the gain in interest during the pandemic, many esports stakeholders still struggle to find sponsors in Luxembourg.
“We have definitely seen that there have been more companies entering the esports markets over the past year, but it doesn’t mean that it’s much easier now. It will be easier to attract many potential partners the moment esports will be officially recognized as sports in Luxembourg. The big problem is that this official recognition is going to take a while”, says Joe Hoffmann, president of the Luxembourg Esports Federation (LESF).
Many Asian countries as well as European countries such as France and Denmark have already officially recognized esports, but not Luxembourg. While the coalition program briefly mentions esports, no decision has yet been taken by the Ministry of Sports.
One hurdle seems to be that simulated sports such as FIFA could make the cut, but not other types of esports (action, fantasy, shooter). However, according to Joe Hoffmann, “the decision whether something can be classified as a sport should not depend on what you see on the screen. If you recognize that something is a sport, it’s because of what’s happening in the player’s body”.
“Esports is about body and mental fitness, good sleep and healthy nutrition.”
Links with traditional sports
Nevertheless, some local traditional sports organizations are showing interest in esports. Most European football clubs now have their own esports team, and this trend has also arrived in Luxembourg, as the LESF and the Luxembourg Football Federation (FLF) partnered to set up the Orange eLeague, Luxembourg’s national “EA Sports FIFA 21” league. Licensed by EA, the event served as the official qualification tournament on the road for the FIFA eWorld Cup, with a prize money of 5,000€.
The tournament has been played by football clubs from Luxembourg’s first and second division (BGL League & Promotion d’Honneur), all of which registered two players. This gave most traditional football clubs the opportunity to recruit their own FIFA players, as most of them did not have a team of FIFA players prior to the eLeague.
According to Hoffmann, these partnerships between traditional sports and esports are important “because it shouldn’t be either esports or football. Many kids play handball and football at the same time, before choosing which the sport they want to play at a higher level. It’s the same between basketball and esports, football and esports, handball and esports.”
The need for structures
That is where having a structure to support youngster who aspire to practice esports at a higher level is crucial. Critiques that kids sit in front of a screen during numerous hours are justified, says Hoffmann, but these situations occur “because there are no structures. Esports is about body and mental fitness, good sleep and healthy nutrition. Sitting 10 hours in front of a screen will actually have a negative impact: you get tired, you get depressed because you’re losing, and then you’re entering a negative feedback loop.”
Whether these structures will be developed in Luxembourg over the next twelve months will depend on the amount of investment that will flow into esports in the Grand Duchy. Officially recognizing esports as sports would be a big step towards increased funding and, ultimately, better structures.