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The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) and the Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports have partnered with Garena Online Thailand to strengthen the domestic esports industry and develop the country as the hub of esports tournaments in Asean.

“The ministry and the SAT will focus more on esports next year including training and welfare to develop the esport ecosystem after esports was named in the Royal Gazette last month as one of the country’s professional sports,” Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said.

The esports industry across Asean was worth US$39 million in 2020 and is expected to grow to $72 million by 2024 as people spend more time playing online games amid the pandemic, according to the minister.

A boom in esports does not only benefit internet providers or IT products, but also consumer product makers which target millennials, sport tourism, and investment in the country, he said.

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Mr Phiphat said Thailand is due to take part in the biggest esports event, Arena of Valor (RoV) International Championship 2021 (AIC 2021), with a prize pool of $1 million, at the end of next month, which could help the country prepare to serve as the future regional hub for esports competition.

SAT governor Kongsak Yodmanee said the agency has recently established the SAT Esports Academy to train RoV players participating in the upcoming Road to AIC 2021, a tournament that selects esports teams for AIC 2021.

Kongsak said there are 12 members from two esport teams that are preparing for the match under the supervision of the SAT, which provides support for physical training, nutrition and sports psychology.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry, the SAT and Garena signed a memorandum of understanding to support and enhance the esports industry in Thailand.

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“Even though Thailand is not the biggest esports market in Asia, investors and stakeholders perceive the country as a potential market thanks to the readiness of the ecosystem and official recognition from the government,” Allen Hsu, regional head of strategic partnership and esports development at Garena Online Thailand, said.

Thailand is the first country where foreign football clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Valencia have invested in the RoV Pro League, which showed the country’s potential for esports, he said.

He said 2022 will be the year for esports as many tournaments will take place in Thailand and overseas, particularly the SEA Games and Asian Games, where esports have become a medal sport and could gain more recognition.

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