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“We are united by a vision,” CEO Paul J. Foster looks forward to a remarkable GEF future

The dynamism of Saudi Arabia mirrors the Global Esports Federation

GEF CEO, Paul J. Foster speaking at the 4th GEF General Assembly in Riyadh.

“We are so thrilled to be here in Riyadh at this time, in this incredible capital that is emerging before our very eyes, literally,” says Paul J. Foster, the Global Esports Federation’s CEO


“I’ve been here 12 times in 12 months, and I love it. The physical architecture, the energy of the place and time, the people, the enthusiasm, and the united spirit around Vision 2030, to which GEF wants to play its part. 


“But it’s also important because of the impact that the Global Esports Games will have on the region, and worldwide. At a time when there is multiple conflicts and disharmony, this is a harmonizing factor, something we just love. 


“Together with HRH Prince Faisal and his team, we have a connection that moves in perfect harmony, because we are united by shared values and vision. Prince Faisal talks about gaming as a unifying force for good.


“Of course, there are challenges, we want to do so much – but Saudi Arabia is a place that is delivering on its promises. I have suggested to our community that it’s very impactful that we are here now. I think we will look back and say, ‘We were there’.”


“We feel very grown up, all of a sudden”


As well as looking forward with excitement, GEF’s third annual flagship Global Esports Games provides an ideal setting to reflect on what has been achieved as the organization enters its fifth year. 

“We feel very grown up, all of a sudden,” says Paul. “Four years feels start-up-ish. You can’t say that after five. As CEO, I get a sense of chapter change. We are calling this GEF 5.0 and we are focusing on our fifth universal value, innovation”.


“Now we can say the foundations are well in place. We’ve got incredible partnerships with UNESCO. We were at the UN General Assembly in New York, where I gave the UNDP Youth Award. That was a great moment among so many great moments. 


“Thanos Karagrounas, GEF Executive Director, Strategy and Impact, has joined the UNESCO Chair on Governance and Social Responsibility


“We had the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Science of UNESCO, Gabriela Ramos, hosting UNESCO’s Global Sports Conference, MINEPS, attended by the GEF, and expressing her excitement for the European Games Esports Championships.


“It speaks volumes for our organization’s beliefs. Then layer in the Olympic Partnerships, the European Games in Katowice, Poland, the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Santiago was a real highlight, with our athletes being part of national delegations, wearing the uniform, staying in the Pan American Village. The IOC President, Thomas Bach, visited us at the Pan American Esports Championships Marquee at the Santiago National Stadium. We are very proud of that.”


None of this has been easy to achieve. “Sometimes we make it look like that, but this was all part of a hard journey. I had to go to Santiago with a vision and share it with Panam Sports.


“Some of them had never heard of esports or didn’t have a great perception of it. But after speaking to them, it was unanimously voted for inclusion. GEF has often done things that are not easy.”


“Cities and countries want us to come and host events” 

With foundations in place, the GEF will continue to innovate and grow at a lightning pace. 


“President Chris Chan has just been unanimously re-elected, and it was an amazing moment for him. The entire GEF General Assembly rallied to support him,” says Paul. “That speaks to our stability, credibility, legitimacy, and prestige, to have a man of decades of experience in the Olympic movement, leading our Board.


“That is complemented by a remarkable Board of 28 people, from every continent on earth, with backgrounds in sport, esports, business, and education. They are giving their heart and soul to the emergence of esports. It also gives us a foundation for innovation.


“Our work is a resource, available in service to our community. This year was all about making an impact, but 2024 will be the year we move towards innovation. It’s right across the organization, every vertical, how we think about every aspect from an innovative perspective.


It’s a lighthouse, a vision setter, not a fixed policy. I’m excited that Eric Brinkley, our Director of Programs and Content, has now been appointed as Commissioner of the Global Esports Tour. We could be looking at 10 to 12 events, across the world – the best titles, the best players, and teams.”


“We’ve got great brands and organizations behind us. And with our credibility, cities, and countries want us to come and host events.” 


Paul was recently in Istanbul, where people spoke to him about the impactful legacy of the Istanbul 2022 Global Esports Games.


With three of the flagship events in the books for GEF, and three more confirmed for the forthcoming years – China, the UAE, and the USA, it’s a fascinating moment.


“Having many people talk to me about the GEG legacy was wonderful,” says Paul. “There was that famous document we pushed out in Singapore saying that we’d do a Games there, in Istanbul, and Riyadh, and now we’ve achieved that. But now it’s time for that new season, that new volume to open.” 


GEF 5.0 is a go.


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