Esports Balkan League eyes growth for regional esports competition
Esports Betting Report

Sportradar’s Second Esports Deal In A Month Shines Light On Regional Competition, Betting Integrity

Sportradar esports focus

Data partnerships agreed this month by Sportradar with Fortuna Esports in the Balkans and PvPRO’s Electronic Sports Global Tour highlighted the expanding reach of esports tournaments.

Under the terms of a new multi-year deal with Fortuna Esports, Sportradar will also be the exclusive provider of audio-visual stream and transmission for betting for all the league organizer’s tournaments, including the new Esports Balkan League.

Meanwhile, the agreement with PvPRO will see Sportradar distribute exclusive audio-visual and data streams for the league organizer’s CS:GO competitions.

Getting more regional for esports

The news highlights the extent to which esports already has a far-reaching geographic appeal, according to Fortuna Esports’ chief executive Mihajlo Jovanović.

It is recognition for all our efforts in this region to develop esports and make it closer to the European and global scenes which is and was our goal from the start,” he told Esports Betting Report.

“This part of Europe has a very strong potential, and with the right support it can compare to any other European region similar in size and demographics. I would say that esports is a global phenomenon, same everywhere, but that it needs local action to start growing.”

James Watson, head of esports at Sportradar, pointed out that the feedback the provider had received from its betting partners was that local content had the potential to be an important driver. He noted that when he visited tournaments in both Zagreb in Croatia and Belgrade in Serbia this year.

“Whilst naturally the big international events attract a vast interest, local and regional tournaments are part of the culture and still play an important role in the local esports ecosystem,” he says.

“I think a big future trend will be to see a range of new markets begin to start competing with the more traditional European hubs around Germany and Scandinavia. Naturally a large part of this will see an even faster movement towards the west coast of the US, but we’re certainly going to see a positive disruption from Eastern Europe, Russia and also developing markets in Southeast Asia.”

The Esports Balkan League

Here’s a look at the EBL:

  • Composed of eight teams with players drawn from 10 countries
  • Competing for €120,000 in total prize money
  • Currently includes CS:GO and League of Legends; more sports will come over time
  • Competition launched this month (Sept. 11)

The mushrooming of esports competitions and tournaments has been accelerating in the past year or more, according to Paul Leyland, lead partner at the gambling consultancy Regulus Partners. He points out that many will not have licenses and hence liable to both integrity and potential IP issues.

He applauded Sportradar’s attempt to more clearly corral offerings from around the globe.

“Sportradar’s approach to eSports has been more measured and strategic, working with quality over quantity product and addressing integrity to ensure sustainability – official rights deals with several top leagues shows the approach is paying off,” he said.

Competitive focal points for esports

Watson says it is important that esports handles growth “in a safe and sustainable way.”

“In some circles, esports betting still has some negative connotations, which may lead to an incorrect assumption that promoting betting on tournaments is in some way dangerous or unhealthy,” he added.

“In reality we have seen strong case studies from across the sporting world that growth in betting markets is a signal of the overall health and popularity of the sport itself. The same is true for esports.”

The degree to which leagues will provide a centrifugal force within the developing esports ecosystem is hit upon by Jovanović. 

“For us as operators, it is even more important that the esports ecosystem we are building gets to be seen in the bigger picture,” he said.

“Competition organizers are naturally the focal point for esports, as they are the ones that connect all of the interested parties, and have the responsibility for the overall system development.”

As part of the deals, Sportradar will provide full integrity services provided by the company’s Fraud Detection Service. It is becoming increasingly clear the degree to which integrity is taking on an ever greater importance in esports.

This is a trend that we’re starting to see more and more with tournament organizers, regardless of scale, since the integrity of events is becoming paramount in producing a credible competition,” said Watson. “In addition to the integrity gains noted above, we bring to the table a global distribution mechanism that taps into the world’s betting and digital media markets.”

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Scott Longley
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Scott Longley has been a journalist since the early noughties covering personal finance, sport and gambling. He has worked for a number of publications including Investor’s Week, Bloomberg Money, Football First, eGaming Review and Gambling Compliance. He now runs his own editorial consultancy Clear Concise Media and writes for a number of online and print titles.