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Today’s Senedd Roundup: Government working to bring major e-sports event to Wales

09 May 2019 7 minute read

Photo by Florian Olivo on UnsplashOwen Donovan, Senedd Home

Government working to bring major e-sports event to Wales

The Motion (Amended/Final Version)

The Senedd:

Recognises the growing impact that the e-sports industry is having on local economies around the world, such as the 2017 tournaments in Valencia and Cologne which attracted between 15,000 – 40,000 attendees.

Notes the UK Government are undertaking an inquiry to explore the potential for e-sports and welcomes the recommendations of the Bazalgette Review into the Creative Industries, which outlines recommendations such as: raising the status of e-sports with government-sponsored competitions, national teams, and media coverage; increasing the UK Government’s investment by £23.7 million over five years to extend the UK Games Fund and Transfuzer programmes.

Notes the significant investments made by the Welsh Government and its partners that have helped establish a thriving Creative Industries sector and its intention to take a cross-government approach to grow e-sports.

Calls on the UK Government to ensure that additional funding for creative industries is made available to Wales and other devolved administrations.

Fresh and exciting

It’s believed this is the first time e-sports have been raised in the Senedd, Shadow Culture Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) said that despite a lingering stigma, e-sports were growing massively and it was time for Wales to seek out opportunities.

“We’ve all heard of the League of Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA and Halo 5. In 2018, Goldman Sachs estimated that the global monthly audience for e-sports is 167 million people, and by 2022 it’s estimated the audience will reach 276 million….to put it in perspective, similar in size to the NFL. Other estimates claim e-sports has $900 million of annual revenue….and 380 million viewers globally.”

– Shadow Culture Minister, David Melding AM

Birmingham and London are hosting major e-sports tournaments in 2019 expected to attract crowds of up to 30,000 and many real-world sports clubs have attached themselves to e-sports, such as the FIFA e-Premier League due to launch this year. While there are concerns over gambling associated with e-sports, they require innovation and invention on behalf of the players.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) told AMs the UK e-sports audience was estimated at 6.5million and is expected to grow with up to 1million jobs created in the gaming industry generally. This now had to be joined by a comprehensive programme of training in high-level digital skills in Wales – something later echoed by Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East).

Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) believed north-east Wales was well placed to take advantage of this due to links with major hubs for games development in northern England.

“One thing is clear: e-sports and games, like it or not, are playing an increasing yet underrated role within the UK economy and the Welsh economy….the geographical spread of jobs in this area is uneven. In fact, the statistics that I looked at said that 46.7% of creative industry jobs are currently concentrated in London and south-east England, with a small percentage in Scotland; only 2.8 per cent currently in Wales….”

– Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth)

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said e-sports shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to physical activity. He cited Dundee as a place Wales could emulate, with the city becoming a hub for the UK games industry – famously the Rockstar North studio (Grand Theft Auto series, LA Noire, Red Dead Redemption series). The technical skills have also led to the city becoming a hub for electric vehicle development.

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) said a recent visit to a Coleg Llandrillo Menai games development course was an “eye-opener” as there was a much wider set of skills required to develop a game than he first thought.

Welsh Government working to bring e-sports event to Wales

Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd), accepted the Bazelgette Review and hoped to avoid a false argument that developing e-sports would undermine efforts to increase physical activity. At a recent trade event in San Francisco, eight Welsh games companies secured £300,000 worth of investments with a further £1million in negotiation.

He also confirmed work was ongoing regarding hosting a major e-sports event:

“The major events unit….is working proactively with partners in Wales, the UK and internationally….to identify and pursue opportunities to attract major e-sports events to Wales. These include discussing with the UK Interactive Entertainment Association, the European Gaming League and ESL, the owners of several major international properties in this sector.”

– Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas

Broadband router. Picture by MediaDS

Tories push for better broadband

This week’s short debate was led by Leader of the Opposition in the Senedd, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.).

He said the issue of broadband connective was one of the most frequently raised issues with him after hospital services. While he accepted some progress has been made but more needed to be done to reach the last 2-3% of households which have sub-standard internet connections.

He called for more transparency on the geographical spread of broadband investment, particular with regard a £60million surplus left after the next round of Openreach work:

“….the Deputy Minister confirmed he was not aware of how the surplus money will be used….Therefore, perhaps, in responding to today’s debate, at the very least the Deputy Minister will commit to providing a breakdown of exactly how much money will be spent in each local authority area so that, in the interests of transparency, the people of Wales can see where the money will be targeted and how their communities will be prioritised….”

– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

45% of farmers believed their broadband connections weren’t good enough for their business interests – particularly in light of many farm services and applications moving online-only. It also affects tourism as many destinations need to offer good internet connectivity to attract guests and market themselves.

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), added that 13% of premises in his constituency had poor broadband connectivity and only 11% of the estimated 10,000 properties without access to superfast broadband have been included in the latest round of Openreach work.

A Market Failure

Replying on behalf of the government, Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli), said that while broadband wasn’t devolved he agreed with the idea that broadband should be subject to a postal service style universal service obligation – something the UK Government has so far resisted. The whole situation points to a market failure:

“Paul Davies mentioned the phenomenon we’re seeing, where service providers are falling over themselves to get even faster speeds to people in urban settings and are not interested in providing any speeds to people in some rural settings. Now, that is a market failure. We hear often from the benches there of the importance of allowing the market to be supreme, and this is what happens when the market is supreme: there is an exclusion.”

– Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters

He added that the money was there, but private companies have so far shown little interest in connecting to the final few not-spots. As for what additional action the government is taking, they’ve topped up the UK Government’s gigabit broadband voucher scheme and they are also considering non-traditional measures like using TV “white space” (space taken up by old analogue signals) to deliver 10Mbps connections in parts of Monmouthshire.

Petition calls for Makaton to be taught in schools

A 13-year-old from Bridgend, Isabella Evans, has submitted a petition to the Senedd calling for Makaton – a form of sign language used by people with learning disabilities – to be taught in Welsh schools.

The Senedd has previously debated a petition calling for the extended provision of British Sign Language in schools and the Welsh Government said: “Languages, Literacy and Communication is one of six areas of learning and experience in the new curriculum for Wales. Where appropriate, schools can introduce British Sign Language as their international language.”

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