Gamers Without Borders charity Rocket League tournament kicks off with UK casters and others on board

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Gamers Without Borders (GWB), Saudi Arabia’s charity esports series, is back for its 2022 edition.

Qualifiers have been taking place in Fortnite, Dota 2 and more recently Rocket League, with a $10m charity prize pool. The best teams will qualify for the finals taking place in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, this summer, which will have a separate $15m prize pool for teams across all games.

Rocket League matches have been underway this week on the GWB Twitch channel, with a host of broadcast talent from the UK and beyond on board. This includes Gregan, Cole, Veracity, Shogun and more:

Rocket League teams include Spacestation, Rogue, Complexity and more.

This is Gamers Without Borders’ third consecutive year, with the initiative passing $20m to Covid-19 relief and vaccine distribution over the past two years.

The 2022 edition of Gamers Without Borders will see the humanitarian aid partners (Direct Relief, International Medical Corps, UNICEF, Gavi, and UNHCR) direct the funds to address a variety of humanitarian needs. Donations can be made via the Gamers Without Borders website.

The seven-week-long GWB series includes daily and weekly public tournaments and prize giveaways worth more than $2m.

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Taking place between April 28th and June 7th 2022, Gamers Without Borders is an event by the Saudi Esports Federation, in technical partnership with ESL Gaming.

The news comes after Savvy Gaming Group (SGG), which is 100% owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – its government’s Public Investment Fund – acquired ESL and Faceit earlier this year.

GWB this year will witness the launch of the Saudi Esports Academy, with a series of free training programs aimed at people wanting to develop a career in gaming. GWB will also include gaming-related educational activities like academies, hackathons and webinars, in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT).

His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “After two successful festivals, the third edition of Gamers Without Borders will be bigger than ever. The greater good is once again at the heart of it, as we strive to inspire, entertain and gather gamers around the world behind common humanitarian causes.

“With Gamers Without Borders, The Kingdom has established the world’s largest charity esports platform. Teams, fans and partners have enjoyed the journey so far and the array of opportunities it provided, we can all work together to continue using this global platform for the greater good of the world.”

Controversies and criticism around Gamers Without Borders and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in esports

Saudi Arabia has come under fire from parts of the esports community for its human rights record.

Some have accused Saudi Arabia of sportswashing/esportswashing – using esports and charity initiatives to generate positive PR and detract from their human rights record.

Some, like British esports personality Thorin, also opposed ESL’s women’s circuit announcement in December 2021, with some inferring it was made ahead of the Saudi’s ESL buyout announcement to placate the community.

Last year, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund led a consortium that bought Premier League football club Newcastle United – a move opposed by other UK football clubs.

Earlier this year, in a separate story, Ubisoft relocated its August 2022 Rainbow Six Major away from the UAE after community questioned the location and what it could have meant for LGBTQ+ talent.

And in 2020, Riot Games came under fire for its partnership with Saudi Arabia tech city NEOM – a deal that was cut short within a day of its initial announcement.

Some esports talent have been criticised for their involvement with GWB/Saudi in the past. Others, like UK caster Vince Hill, said he won’t be working with ESL, DreamHack or Faceit “while this money from the Saudi Arabia government through the Savvy Gaming Group continues to be a part of these companies”.

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