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How did the MSSA's first press conference go?

TL;DR: The MSSA and especially Mr Maphumulo wasted one of the most important opportunities to communicate with the SA eSports community. 

Most people reading this article will have heard about the Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA) press conference which took place in Houghton last week Saturday. MWEB GameZone site manager, Han Cilliers, asked me to attended the event for GameZone, since she wanted a fresh pair of eyes to shed some light on the MSSA debacle.

The MSSA has not built up a great reputation among some gamers in the last few years. While it's member base seems content with the current state of affairs, many on the outside demand specific changes. The situation came at a head when Cilliers did an interview with the new MSSA president, Simphiwe Maphumolo on February 21st this year. The article drew a big response from local gamers, with many demanding retribution for the wrongs they felt were left in the wake of the previous MSSA president, Mr Colin Webster's administration. Fair or not, it seems that the taint of this anger will carry over to Maphumulo's administration. In an attempt to start building bridges, he agreed to something many said the MSSA would never allow - a press conference. He also agreed to make some vital changes to the MSSA, which he detailed in his letter, The surprising reply from the MSSA President.

While Webster and Maphumulo tried their best to answer the questions posed to them, they appeared unprepared. Both Webster and Maphumulo struggled to respond to answers and easily got pushed into corners. Maphumulo rarely spoke, with Webster handling most of the questions. A dedicated PR person was an absolute necessity in the situation, especially given the tensions felt in the room.

MSSA press con photo.JPG

Let's take a look at some of the most important subjects covered. Please take note that these are not direct quotes.

When is the MSSA's new website going to go up?

Maphumulo advised that the new MSSA website would be up by the end of the week. (He stated in his letter that "I have been assured by our developer that it will be up and running in two weeks" This is now already overdue, the letter was posted on February 28)

Would Simphiwe be doing interviews with other local press sites?

Maphumulo's answer to this was yes, that he could.

What are the membership numbers of the MSSA and how many members play eSports?

According to Webster and Maphumulo, membership consisted of over 12 000 players. 32% of which participated in eSports. Thirty of these clubs compete in video gaming regardless of platform. Seven do not. The MSSA's mandate extends to board games, historical games and eSports. Maphumulo couldn't confirm the accuracy of these numbers at the time of asking.

What is Maphumulo going to do to bring back estranged members of the eSports community?

There was no concrete answer to this question. Unfortunately Maphumulo had no answers here because of him being in the MSSA's presidency since the end of November. It was also stated that he wasn't aware of what happened before. He asked to answer this later after discussing with the MSSA council.

Does the MSSA receive any SASCOC funding? Where does its funding come from?

Webster stated that the MSSA does not receive SASCOC funding. SASCOC is a private association, and the Olympic committee for South Africa. SASCOC does not give funding to any federation.

Remember that the core MSSA funding comes from its membership fees. Han Cilliers scheduled an interview with MWEB GameZone's Online Gaming Manager, Desmond Kurz, where she will discuss eSports, the MSSA and GameZone's vision for competitive gaming in South Africa.

If Webster and Maphumulo were unavailable could anyone be contacted on behalf of the MSSA's eSports affairs?

According to Webster a new vacancy needed to be created for the purpose. Timelines were not given. Carl Holliday and Ryan Boyes received mention later on. Ryan Boyes' is the MSSA's eSports gaming representative. Carl Holliday is the Legal adviser for the organisation.

Why did the MSSA approve the regulation for a R500 dispute fee?

According to Webster, this regulation has been agreed to by a majority of members years ago. He would have to go back into past minutes in order to give an answer. He also said that this dispute fee does not apply to tournaments.

Has Maphumulo taken on too much for him to handle as president of the MSSA?

His answer to this was that as long as he had a strong council behind him there would be no problems.

Why hasn't the MSSA teamed up with ESL or Dreamhack? Why IeSF despite it being regarded as a second or third tier event?

Webster said that the choice came down to vision. ESWC and Dreamhack are private ventures that could not affiliate into federation structures. The IeSF is an association which consists of member bodies. It is the only route into existing sport structures. The MSSA does send gamers to Dreamhack when the funds are available. From 2005 till 2010 players were sent to WCG until it became financially unfeasible.


Closing thoughts - We needed to hear more from Maphumulo

It would've eased a lot of concerns if the new president was a bit more clued up on eSports. It is the section in the MSSA where the most queries originated from. MSSA eSports was not given fair representation at the press conference, a large part of this was because the eSports representative Ryan Boyes did not attend the event.

As the next few months go by I hope to see more from Maphumulo himself. There is a serious need for an eSports representative who actually understand gamers and competitive gaming. If the MSSA doesn't appoint such a person urgently, then it's possibly heading for a lot more alienation from especially local top cyber athletes.

Here's an extended audio clip of the press conference for you to watch. Make of it what you will then let us know in the comments:

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd.

MWEB GameZone is a sponsor of Mind Sports South Africa

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