High Performance New Zealand backs Kiwi esport athletes in latest investment

A major step forward in the promotion of esports in New Zealand entering 2022.

New Zealand’s leading high performance organisation has brought esports into the fold, giving esport athletes the opportunity to train alongside Olympians and international sport teams in the latest landmark funding round.

High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) has announced a landmark funding first for Kiwi esport athletes.

A $131 million investment for 34 sports from the government-funded high performance organisation, announced on Friday, has included esports in its funding for the first time.

And it will see Kiwi esport athletes gaining access to high performance services the likes of which Olympians and the All Blacks receive; psychology, strength & conditioning, nutrition, medical, physiotherapy, massage therapy, and athlete life coaching among the many benefits of the organisation’s facilities.

While esports will see the lowest amount of funding, with $5000 per annum pledged — $1000 less per year than orienteering — New Zealand Esports Federation (NZESF) chief executive Jonathan Jansen said it wasn’t about the money.

“The purpose of this application wasn’t financial; it was to gain access to the HPSNZ support services, infrastructure and begin a partnership with HPSNZ,” Jansen said.

“The successful part of the application that has meaning is we now have the ability to nominate five elite New Zealand esport athletes. They will have access to HPSNZ training facilities and tailored development programs where they can access world-class sport psychologists, dieticians and personal trainers.”

HPSNZ announced a further $19 million will be funnelled to athletes through a wellbeing and engagement fund for the provision of performance support services to support athlete wellbeing.

NZESF, the esports national sporting division, would divvy out the the share to current Kiwi athletes performing in top-tier competitions.

“We are now able to provide our top athletes with everything they need to help support their journey to high performance success,” Jansen said.

“Those of us in esports know how important these auxiliary services are, and they are generally reserved for the global elite teams backed by millions in investment partners. Kiwi players now have that pathway.”

Jonathan Jansen, NZESF Chief Executive

Jansen said the HPSNZ funding would likely go towards supporting Kiwi esport athletes who are already on track to represent New Zealand at international events.

The new funding was earmarked for 16 sports that had previously been overlooked in New Zealand such as basketball (3×3 men and 5×5 women), skateboarding, diving, esports, water polo, para waka ama, climbing, motocross and touch rugby.

HPSNZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle says the investment package is designed to maintain the targeted approach that has helped deliver ongoing international success for Kiwi athletes, and investing in a wider range of sports to achieve results that inspire New Zealanders.

“By supporting such a variety of sports, we are looking to help generate performances now and in the future that will engage a more diverse range of New Zealanders in high performance sport,” Castle said.

“We’re also backing sports that will showcase and provide pathways that resonate more widely with New Zealand’s culturally diverse population, such as touch rugby, women’s rugby league and badminton.

“For many of these sports, this is the first step in a partnership, and we are as excited as they are to begin that journey.”

Jansen said another big win was influencing the public perception of esports.

“The negative stigma around gamers is not close to reality and having esport athletes training next to traditional sport Olympians and All Blacks is going to go a long way in redefining what that stereotype is.

“It gives Kiwi kids a role model to point their parents to and to articulate their dreams in a way that is easily understood.”

“I believe the future for New Zealand esports is bright. We’re a nation renowned for our athletes and sporting culture — esports is no exception. We have top players competing for international franchises across the world and that representation is fantastic.

“I would love to see New Zealand become an incubator for incredible esports talent, but with the pathways and culture in place to give them a choice to represent Kiwi teams and build the reputation of New Zealand internationally across all esport titles.”

PhotographyNZESF
Matt Brown
Kiwi journo Matt “nipple” Brown loves spinning a yarn in a deathmatch server and telling interesting tales. Easily confused, he tends to ask more questions than people are generally comfortable with.

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