Mike Wragg debated whether women's esports should be separate from men's during a panel ©ITG

Mike Wragg, who represented the Global Esports Federation (GEF) strategic partner Nielsen at the Commonwealth Esports Forum, questioned the need for the sport to be divided into gender categories for competitions during the event here.

The company's Asia Pacific managing director and international head of strategy consulting and research was a member of the "World Forum on Equality and Inclusion" panel, which discussed a range of issues.

Women's roles in esports was a core topic for the five-person panel, with Sophie Spinx, Portas Consulting’s D&I and women's sport lead in the Asia Pacific region, explaining how women’s sport branding has increased in value in recent years.

During the forum, held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham, Wragg questioned whether this created a "couple of dilemmas" for the trajectory of esports.

One being allowing women's esports to thrive independently, or to knock down the divide completely by combining the two genders together.

"Frankly, women's sport is much less cluttered than men's sport," he said.

"It doesn't have a lot of the baggage of the commercial reputation that has evolved with men's sports.

"Actually, it is a new space, it is attracting new sponsors.

"It's not much that it is taking sponsorship and investment, it is increasing the total amount of investment because of new brand values you can reach for."

He continued: "Does it really make sense for there to be separate women's esports?

"At the moment, there are a number of competitions, and certainly to get some of the advantages Sophie [Spink] was talking about that comes from following that path.

Wragg believes that one of the best parts of esports is that there are no physical differences between men and women ©Getty Images
Wragg believes that one of the best parts of esports is that there are no physical differences between men and women ©Getty Images

"But, on the other hand, it doesn't make sense as a final destination.

"One of the things that is so great about esports is the fact there isn't that physical difference that could be brought up as the reason for why you wouldn't have everybody competing with each other.

"The issue is how do you get there?

"How do you get to that future?

"How do you get to the funding?"

Wragg added that the use of women's competitions could be "a good bridge to the future", even though it might not be the "final destination."

Tom Dore, the head of the Global Esports Academy, followed Wragg's suggestion by claiming that the message from the community on the subject has transformed in recent years.

"Five or six years ago, the message we were being given from the community was actually 'no, we didn't want to be different,'" he said.

"'We don’t want to be seen as being different.

"'We want to play together because we can.'

"Whereas now in the last few years we have seen an increase in women-only competitions.

Dore remarked that sponsors were not "necessarily interested" in mixed or open competitions and they instead want to be connected to the women-only events.

Nevertheless, in Dore's view, this does not waiver from the principle of esports being "gender neutral."

"Because we are so young and new as an industry, we don't have the baggage that other sport industries have," he commented.

"We are not siloed like other sports are and not working with other sports across boundaries.

"We have that blank sheet of paper.

"We can be that change.

"We can make that change."

Other participants on the panel were GEF vice-president and former Olympian Charmaine Crooks and GEF commission member Rebecca Smith.

It was one of seven panels at the Forum while the qualifiers for the Commonwealth Esports Championships were held.

Twelve nations are scheduled to compete across the next two days of medal action at the ICC.

The athletes are due to compete in Rocket League, eFootball and Dota 2.