FISU Acting President Leonz Eder wishes to capitalise on the esports boom ©FISU

International University Sports Federation (FISU) Acting President Leonz Eder is looking to capitalise on the esports industry's boom while still incorporating physical activity into the competition.

Eder is aware of the financial power that esports has and wants to be a part of its popularity, as many other sporting federations are doing, but feels that they do not contribute to a healthy lifestyle like traditional sports.

Organisations have targeted esports as a way to entice young people into their events, with it set to make its debut at the postponed Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games this year while it also featured parallel to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games last year.

"We are open for new sports because the youth, our target group of 17-25 years, they might have different ideas on how sport should look," Eder told insidethegames at the 2023 Winter World University Games here.

"If we are talking about esports, for instance, we are trying to find out the best way to integrate esports for our community but we would not like to just have computer games.

"Our esports idea is to practice things like e-rowing, e-running, all these sports.

"This makes a difference, not just gaming but real sports.

"We have to listen to the students to find out what they really want but it takes some time because the International Federations are involved, organising committees must be ready, and we must make an analysis first."

The FISU eSports Challenge Football was staged in 2020 ©FISU
The FISU eSports Challenge Football was staged in 2020 ©FISU

The esports industry was estimated by Newzoo's Global Esports Market Report to have generated $1.8 billion (£1.45 billion/€1.6 billion) in revenue last year.

In 2020, the FISU eSports Challenge Football was staged and took place during 11 competition days in early July that . 

A total of 32 male players and 12 female ones battled it out in two separate tournaments that happened simultaneously.

In 2021, FISU signed a contract with the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne to run a research programme on the impact of digital games on the student community. 

The conclusions of this research were due to delivered to FISU by the end of 2022.

This research proposal aimed to give a better understanding about esports interest around the world at a national level as well as at an individual level and will help lead discussions surrounding the potential development of esports at the university level.

The ISSUL Professors will address key points such as current initiatives being developed by national university sports federations, the attitudes of university students towards eSports as well as the patterns of usage within the university student population.

A huge focus has been place on sustainability at Lake Placid 2023 with "Save Winter" being the theme of both the Games and the FISU World Conference taking place in the United States.

Eder has ambitions to tie the two together, which he thinks could set the organisation apart from the rest of the world.

"Esports is a big, big business," Eder told insidethegames.

"We cannot avoid it and somehow we would also like to be part of it but I, and many others, don’t believe that through games we bring these people to the field of sports.

"I am not against these games because a lot of students play them but our target must also be a healthy lifestyle, healthy campus.

"If the students are sitting for the whole day at their laptops, and then instead of going to practice some sports physically they only do gaming in their remaining time and they the sit on the bus."

Leonz Eder is seeking to get involved with esports but would rather have competitions in ones that require physical activity ©Getty Images
Leonz Eder is seeking to get involved with esports but would rather have competitions in ones that require physical activity ©Getty Images

Eder, though, would like to see there be more physical activity involved in esports that FISU help promote.

"If they do some esports combined with physical activities, this is closer to our philosophy than just gaming," he told insidethegames.

"In several universities, we also made some tests when you combine a bicycle with producing electricity.

"We are talking about sustainability, we are talking about the protection of environment.

"If we can combine esports with physical activities and also have climate actions in mind, then I think we can be a leading federation in the development of this aspect."