Finnish military grants athlete status to e-sports conscripts

Finland's military will grant e-sports players special athlete status in future, allowing them to take extra time off from compulsory military service to compete in e-sports events.

Miika Tekoniemi plays Overwatch in his home. Image: Juhani Kenttämaa / Yle

Young people pursuing a career in the increasingly-lucrative field of e-sports will be able to serve their compulsory service in the Finnish Defence Forces as an athlete in future. The Finnish Defence Forces will allow the e-sports players to serve with the same status as elite sportspeople, giving them special privileges as they undertake their compulsory service.

Conscripts meeting the requirements will be assessed as part of the special forces selection associated with every round of call-ups. The Finnish E-sports Federation will assist in the assessment of possible candidates.

"By completing their military service in the Sports School, e-sports professionals will have enough time to practice and compete," the federation's director Joonas Kapiainen said in a press release.

Compulsory service

Finland's military already runs a Sports School that enables talented athletes to continue training during their military service. Day-to-day training is carried out in cooperation with the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Sports Academy and the Vuokatti-Ruka Sports Academy and conscripts in the school are generally given more holidays to participate in competitions and intensive sports camps.

The period of compulsory military service for these athletes is either 165 or 347 days. Normally, rank and file conscripts serve 165, 255 or 347 days, while those trained as NCOs or reserve officers serve the longer 347-day period.

All adult males in Finland are required to serve their country before they are 30 years old, in either military or civilian service. Conscientious objectors face a penalty of 173 days in prison, minus any served days. Such sentences are usually served in full, with no parole.

Keeping up with the times

Playing video games, or e-sports, is on the rise the world over. The e-sports research company Newzoo predicted in May that the global revenue from e-sports will exceed a billion dollars before the year 2020.

Last year, the Finnish ice hockey league HIFK established a 'Helsinki Red' e-sports team to compete in the multiplayer shooting game Overwatch. At the beginning of 2017, the soccer team SJK also sponsored its own e-sports team to compete in Interactive FIFA tournaments.