‘Get gaming,’ Saudi Arabia’s eSport federation boss says

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, SAFEIS president, talking about eSports at the Future Investment Initiative 2019 in Riyadh. (Screenshot/FII)
Updated 01 November 2019

‘Get gaming,’ Saudi Arabia’s eSport federation boss says

  • Says industry behind electronic and intellectual sports is vast
  • Strong community of gamers in Saudi Arabia and support from government

RIYADH: The world of eSports is evolving in Saudi Arabia, and its youthful audience means it could become an industry leader, according to the president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronics and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

“We are a population of youth; 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. Everybody hears these numbers, but that means 70 percent of our population is my target audience,” Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, SAFEIS president, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII).

SAFEIS was founded in 2017, and in what is considered a young industry no one has yet taken a leadership role, he said. “We have the opportunity, we have the community and we have the skills. Both our young men and women, who are some of the best competitors, have the ability to take the bull by the horns.”

The industry behind electronic and intellectual sports is vast, covering not only competitions and video gaming, but coders and inventors, he said. “We can become the leader, not just in competitions and events, but in the actual technology and in the integration between male and female athletes, which we are well ahead in.”

How ahead? In most countries the world of eSports is male-dominated, with 70 percent of males participating, but the Kingdom is different. “In Saudi Arabia, when we’ve done our surveys and talked to our community, it’s about 52 percent male and 48 percent female.”

The first eSports cup, which was a government-sanctioned event, had both male and female participants, he said. “Which rarely happens internationally, let alone in Saudi. That was one of the first movers.”




Visitors at the GSA eSports Cup in Riyadh in 2018. (AFP)

However, it was not done with the idea that “we have to have women involved.” Every participant qualified on their own merits and in the lens of competition and that was what was “great” about it, he said. 

“There wasn’t any awkwardness, it was very natural, and everyone was there to have fun,” he said of the first mixed-gender competition.

There is a strong community of gamers in Saudi Arabia and support from the government, but the difficulties SAFEIS faces lie in convincing the private sector to invest in the sector.

“The only way this is sustainable is if the private sector gets involved. If we as a federation are growing and paying and doing everything for 10 years to come, nothing is going to happen. It’s not going to grow.”  

However, things are slowly changing with the private sector taking more of a lead in events and licensing.

“As people start to see that it makes money, they are going to do it at a business level.” This will bring in revenues and build a stronger community of eSports enthusiasts, he said.

With all the new technologies, including cloud gaming and 5G networks, being introduced into Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal added: “This is the time for people to start moving and get gaming.”


Mexico objects to labor enforcement provision in North American trade deal

Updated 15 December 2019

Mexico objects to labor enforcement provision in North American trade deal

  • Mexico produced more stringent rules on labor rights aimed at reducing Mexico’s low-wage advantage
  • US House of Representatives proposes the designation of up to five US experts who would monitor compliance with local labor reform in Mexico

MEXICO CITY: Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, Jesus Seade, said on Saturday he sent a letter to the top US trade official expressing surprise and concern over a labor enforcement provision proposed by a US congressional committee in the new North American trade deal.
Top officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States on Tuesday signed a fresh overhaul of a quarter-century-old deal, aiming to improve enforcement of worker rights and hold down prices for biologic drugs by eliminating a patent provision.
How labor disputes are handled in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal was one of the last sticking points in the negotiations between the three countries to overhaul the agreement.
Intense negotiations over the past week among US Democrats, the administration of Republican US President Donald Trump, and Mexico produced more stringent rules on labor rights aimed at reducing Mexico’s low-wage advantage.
However, an annex for the implementation of the treaty that was presented on Friday in the US House of Representatives proposes the designation of up to five US experts who would monitor compliance with local labor reform in Mexico.
“This provision, the result of political decisions by Congress and the Administration in the United States, was not, for obvious reasons, consulted with Mexico,” Seade wrote in the letter. “And, of course, we disagree.”
USMCA was signed more than a year ago to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but Democrats controlling the US House of Representatives insisted on major changes to labor and environmental enforcement before voting.
The letter, released on Saturday, is dated Friday and addressed to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Seade said he would travel to Washington on Sunday to raise the issues directly with Lighthizer and lawmakers.
“Unlike the rest of the provisions that are clearly within the internal scope of the United States, the provision referred to does have effects with respect to our country and therefore, should have been consulted,” Seade wrote.
Both Canada and the US House Ways and Means Committee said the deal included a mechanism for verification of compliance with union rights at the factory level in Mexico by independent labor experts.
Some Mexican business groups bemoaned a lack of clarity and conflicting information on how the rules would actually be enforced under the deal, the first text of which became public only on Wednesday.