A Swiss League football match between Young Boys and Basel was held up due to a fan protest against Esports.
As reported by Associated Press, the match, held on Sunday 23 September, saw a protest take place a few minutes after kick-off in which Young Boys fans threw tennis balls, videogames controllers and even a console onto the pitch. Young Boys fans held up a banner featuring a pause button and slogans opposing Esports leagues. Away supporters from Basel also held up a banner displaying similar sentiments: the protest was pre-planned.
Ostkurve Bern – the Young Boys supporters’ organisation behind the protest – shed some light on the action on its Facebook page. The protest was fuelled by the Swiss FA’s decision to create its own Esports league, and its insistence that physical football clubs will not be allowed to participate in the top division of the Swiss Football League if they do not have their own Esports franchise.
The Facebook statement said: “We’re fighting e-Sports [sic]!!! For a few months, e-sport has been constantly addressing the media and stadiums. In March 2019, the Swiss Football League will start its own league; this has nothing to do with our sport and the values of our association! This is all about profit! It must not be that the league’s plan is implemented and the clubs are forced to take an e-Sports team as a licence for participation in the highest league. We as stadium visitors must fight against it to keep our sport as it is! In today’s society, children often sit at home in front of consoles instead of playing sports with friends. In A sports club, children and young people are given important values such as reliability, punctuality and above all friendship! These are values that are completely missed in e-sport.”
Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, the Swiss FA’s insistence that teams will be booted out of the country’s top flight if they do not have their own Esports franchise seems unnecessarily heavy-handed. The Swiss protest, perhaps, can be seen as an early indication of the potential for e-sports to become a victim of their own success. Although its contention that the Swiss FA is motivated by profit above all else will strike a few chords among football fans around the world.