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NEWS: Esports Awards CEO says EWC does not have control over awards amid Riyadh backlash

Days after the Esports Awards came under fire from presenters, awardees and panelists for announcing its partnership with the... Paolo | 10. June 2024

Days after the Esports Awards came under fire from presenters, awardees and panelists for announcing its partnership with the Saudi Arabia-funded Esports World Cup, the award-giving body says the EWC does not have a say on who wins the honors.

In a report published by the Esports Insider June 7th, Esports Awards CEO Michael Ashford said that the ceremony will remain an “independently owned and operated entity.”

“The Esports World Cup will work with the Esports Awards to ensure the guest list is a fair representation of the industry whilst helping to ensure club representation is at its highest level,” Ashford told Esports Insider in an interview.

Saudi Arabia’s increasing investments in esports has sparked intense online criticism over the country’s stance on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and censorship. Some industry voices have described Saudi Arabia’s involvement in competitive gaming as “esportswashing,” suggesting it is an effort to divert attention from its human rights record, as well as its brutal treatment of journalists critical of the Saudi Royal Family following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi back in 2018.

Earlier, major names in esports and journalism have already announced they will not attend the ceremony or have withdrawn participation mainly for the reasons said above.

 

Ashford added that they will work with the EWC to “ensure the guest list is a fair representation of the industry whilst helping to ensure club representation is at its highest level.”

He also told Esports Insider that their team has a responsibility “to ensure individuals have the right to accept and represent their win in their own way.”

Ashford said that they will allow for video acceptance for the awards winners and will hold what he dubbed as a second celebration for the Esports Awards as a satellite event to the Riyadh awards. This event, Ashford said, will be done in the fourth quarter of the year.

Ashford also said in the same report that the Esports Awards as the de-facto platform for recognition globally has a very unique position in the competitive gaming ecosystem. 

“Over the last eight years, we have worked to be a holistic and all-encompassing platform that predicates itself on recognizing excellence globally. We have always been mindful that this has been done whilst spending eight years in the West and realistically three years in the UK and five years in the US. This is our first opportunity to position ourselves in a destination that has equal opportunities to attend for the East and West and really stand to create a global hub for esports,” Ashford said.