Why are students still finding it hard to get recognition for esports in their universities?

David “Firu” Spoors, Northumbria Students Union Executive, captain of their League of Legends team and PhD student, offers his thoughts in this opinion piece.
Around a year ago Esports News UK covered the story that the National Union of Students Conference had passed a motion calling for them to petition Sport England and British Universities & Colleges Sport, to get esports recognised as a sport.
It is fair to say that not everyone at the National Union of Students (NUS) Conference was in favour of esports receiving this support, with Loughborough University Students Union speaking against it.
I wrote the motion a year ago that was sent and passed by NUS Conference. Since then there has been no communication from NUS about esports. Nothing on social media, nothing communicated to Students Unions and crucially nothing to the students that via their own institutions pay for the support of the NUS.
At university level there is either an esports society or computer and video gaming society at nearly every university in the country. Without the very successful and well supported National University Esports League (NUEL) there would be no nationwide inter-university competition for esports at all in the United Kingdom.

“Other societies and teams get use of university facilities – why should esports be any different?”

Meanwhile, universities in the USA are actively working with Riot Games on the League of Legends College Championship, the ULOL Campus Series and a number of other smaller competitions. Some even offer esports scholarships in the same way they would to a traditional sports athlete.
However, here in the UK, students are finding it difficult to even get simple recognition for esports in their universities. I think there is a conversation to be had with members of university esports teams and their Student Unions.

We sent this open letter to Loughborough Students Union’s anti-esports brigade last year – and we’re still waiting for a response

I’m in the process of asking Northumbria University if our League of Legends NUEL team can have use of one of the 40 or so computer labs on campus on a Sunday evening, between 6pm and 10pm. Most of these labs will be empty and unused at this time and yet as you might imagine, some university administrators think this is a crazy request, yet they continue to provide rooms for other teams and societies.
So where do we go from here?  Ideally I would like to see Riot Games support the NUEL much more than it has up to now.
It is clear that university League of Legends competitions in other countries receive much more funding and support. The NUEL is the largest and most successful university competition in the UK for League of Legends, with the support of Riot Games it could go entirely to another level.

“I would like to see Riot Games support the NUEL much more than it has up to now.”

The NUS also should be talking to the NUEL about esports, given the NUEL’s position in the university esports scene it would give NUS some credibility around the issue – it already has a mandate from its members to be involved in esports and promote it for the students.
Finally, I would like to see universities and students unions support local esports teams with use of computer labs – this would allow teams to all play in the same room.
Other societies and teams get use of university facilities – why should esports be any different?
Image source: Northumbria University Instagram

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