It’s early days for NZ Esports, yet despite this the organisation is already making waves on the global stage with its innovations and approach to safeguarding.
NZ Esports CEO Jonathan Jansen says he has always viewed their youth as an enabler rather than barrier, ‘building things up rather than tearing them down’.
Since its establishment in 2020, NZ Esports has been guided by Sport New Zealand’s integrity guidance and framework, building new policies and platforms to ensure they’re meeting the needs of all those who want to play.
When Jonathan couldn’t find a subscription service for an offence registry, he went about creating one as part of a wider piece of work making the sport safe, fair and inclusive for all.
Using funding provided by Sport NZ to support partners to increase their integrity capability, the online database was created and recently launched. It holds the names of all those players who have ever been flagged for offences, including for cyber bulling, racial slurs, and cheating in the Esports world.
The idea is that Esports competition organisers must run their attendee database through the offence registry and ban anyone who is on the list.
“Talking to other CEOs of sports, it’s so easy for players to be banned if they offend in a sport. With Esports, it’s all online and there is this layer of anonymity and no geographical boundaries. It can be so easy to move to a new tournament, without any accountability for what may have happened in a previous tournament.”
Jonathan says NZ Esports has built the platform in a way it can be easily utilized and branded by other sporting codes, domestically and internationally. Global Esports are the first group they are hoping to bring on.
NZ Esports CEO Jonathan Jansen
“I would have loved to have been able to buy a subscription to a service at the time but nothing existed like it.”
The need for the platform came from a few different avenues, most significantly the gender split between players.
Jonathan says in gaming, there is a 50/50 split between female and male players.
That ratio changes however, when things move to the professional Esports world, which is 90/10 in favour of men.
“One of the contributing factors for this is it’s historically been a toxic environment for females to participate,” says Jonathan.
“You’re in an online and anonymous forum so there aren’t necessarily consequences for your actions. We saw people who would compete in a tournament and be removed from an event for whatever reason, but then they could travel down the digital road to another tournament. We have built a layer of accountability to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Jonathan and his team are making sure every event organiser has access to the platform, and that the data obtained through it is secure.
“We’ve built it with those social elements in play. It all feeds into giving credibility to the sport, especially when it’s one of the younger sports.”
The team have already used the registry to sanction a team in a high school league.
“There are no referees in our sport, so our rules are governed by things like this,” says Jonathan.
Alongside the offence registry, Jonathan has built a suite of policies and procedures, including on child safeguarding to mitigate the risks involved in having tamariki, rangatahi and schools involved in Esports.
“We came from nothing and now have hundreds of young people involved in the sport – it can be like the wild west.”
Police checking is one part of their overall prevention approach, and is required for all admins of events, and again the treatment of data is a priority.
Other initiatives to create trust and build a safeguarding culture includes a complaints and disciplinary process where an independent panel decides the wrongdoing and the penalty. An accreditation programme has also been designed to help tournament organisers adopt important safety and quality standards (as set by NZ Esports) which aims to provide a safe and fair Esport environment.
Sport NZ Child safeguarding consultant Cameron Prestidge says safeguarding is a continuous journey that needs to be appropriately adapted to every environment.
“NZ Esports show a strong commitment to this journey and their willingness to respond to the needs of their membership through a safeguarding approach is extremely commendable,” says Cameron.
“It is a great example of an organisation being aware of the responsibility they have, growing their understanding of how to safeguard and then putting in place a number of prevention and response mechanisms that support their systems.”