MEP Laurence Farreng: European Union recognition of esports a ‘big step’

Photo credits: © European Union 2022 – Source: EP

In November, the European Parliament passed a landmark resolution recognizing the value of the European esports and video games industry. The report recommended a long-term strategy for the European Union to support and fund both sectors.

The initiative, passed with a convincing 92% yes vote, was backed by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Laurence Farreng, a French politician from the Renew Europe Group.

It was inevitable that esports would eventually attract the attention of the authorities who wanted to support, fund and regulate it – in fact, many would argue that attention is long overdue. However, in an interview with Esports Insider, Farreng said that it was primarily the COVID-19 pandemic that drew her and her committee’s attention to esports and gaming.

“We have decided to draft a resolution on the recovery of the cultural sector and have asked for special funding in the recovery plan for these industries. And that’s when I realized the video game sector is so huge and so important,” she said.

Read more ISFE launches ISFE Esports with key stakeholders EU Parliament Passes Vote to Recognize and Fund Esports and Video Games in Europe

As he approached the subject, Farreng saw the need for policies, programs and incentives at a European level. In her opinion, the Creative Europe program – an EU initiative that offers funding for the audiovisual industry – was insufficient as it largely focused on other cultural sectors such as literature, films and arts. Esports and gaming needed their own funding. But to get them, they would have to be defined first.

“A very positive point [of the report] is that we have disclosed what the sector is,” Farreng explained. “[We] weighing its specificities, the need to take it into account better with specific programmes, specific funding, to defend its specificity because it is based on intellectual property and we have to protect European intellectual property and cultural assets.”

Protecting intellectual property (IP) rights – which the EU has declared as one of the crucial differences between esports and sport – is a crucial point for publishers when it comes to regulation.

According to the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), the representative body of the video game industry, eSports is based on intellectual property made possible by a significant upfront investment by video game publishers and developers, and the rules of video games are constantly being modified and adapted by their developers Publisher.

As a French MP, Farreng has the support of President Emmanuel Macron, who has become an active voice in favor of sport in recent years. She was present at an event at the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the President of the French Republic, to which major French esports players such as Team Vitality and Karmine Corp were invited.

The growing political attention to the sector can be attributed, at least in part, to the economic potential that eSports events bring to host cities. When BLAST decided to bring the upcoming CS:GO Major to Paris, President Macron himself made the announcement.

Farreng believes that earmarked legislation can amplify this economic potential. The MEP stressed the intention to allocate funds to venues and other structures to support the development of the scene, as well as to invest in infrastructure that will make European cities more attractive to host events.

The resolution is comprehensive in its attempt to make Europe attractive. Amidst a series of proposals, a priority was identified as the need to improve visa procedures and working conditions in esports given the international nature of the sector. The November resolution proposed the creation of a wide-ranging visa for all esports participants and staff, based on existing Schengen visas for culture and sports.

dr Nepomuk Nothelfer, a legal scholar commissioned to produce the report on esports for the EU, also shared his insights: “Esports are inherently digital, and as the internet knows no national borders, the industry is inherently international.

“Their international nature has significant implications for almost every aspect of the sector, such as team communication, cultural differences in ecosystem building, immigration and employment, and contracting. It is therefore important to address many challenges at a supranational level.”

The wide margin by which the resolution passed Parliament demonstrates the appetite across Europe for new legislation, Farreng said, leading the 560 yes votes as a result of cross-party cooperation. However, one of the issues raised by Farreng and the resolution is the promotion of European values ​​of inclusion and equality – which has proved more controversial for far-right groups.

“Of course we always have the same problem with the extreme right,” she said. “They say the aim of our report is to influence youth with European values ​​and ‘alertness’.”

However, Farreng said that even some of the more reluctant groups had changed their minds and paved the way for embedding a values-based approach in European eSports strategy: “I think it was very difficult to vote against because for those who want it read, you can’t disagree with the concerns of so many creative industry companies and youth.”

Despite all the progress it signals, there is still a lot to be done – after all, the resolution is only a recommendation. How the guidelines will be implemented has yet to be decided. “The first success was this report,” commented Farreng. “The second was having this very big vote. During the process we had a debate on video games in the European Parliament, so that was a big step.”

Victor Frascarelli, journalist

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Victor Frascarelli is a Brazilian esports business journalist focused on the Latin American market. Victor, who was previously with The Esports Observer for two years, enjoys everything competitive, from League of Legends to soccer to chess to CS:GO.

Supported by Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE)