On Friday 28 August, the New Zealand Esports Federation (NZESF) added Sky Sport Breakers and Black Sheep New Zealand owner, Matt Walsh, to its executive committee. Since moving from the USA two years ago, Walsh has quickly established himself in the local basketball and esports community.
As Managing Owner of the Sky Sport Breakers, the former NBA star formed Black Sheep New Zealand as the country’s first major esports organisation with its own Auckland-based training facility, and the backing of a professional sporting club.
Black Sheep has competed in a multitude of titles at the highest level across Oceania, with players representing the team at EVO, Blizzcon, and many more.
Walsh said he is “beyond excited and honoured to be joining the NZESF committee. It’s an exciting time for esports both globally and here in New Zealand”.
He also added, “I look forward to contributing to the next chapter of the NZESF with the backing of Sport New Zealand”.
In March, the NZESF were recognised as the official sporting body of esports in New Zealand by Sport New Zealand, giving the Federation access to a whole range of funding and resources, such as High Performance New Zealand.
We caught up with Ben Lenihan, President of the NZESF, who said he is “delighted to be bringing Matt on board to help the Federation take its next steps”.
“Matt has a wealth of knowledge in combining the worlds of traditional sport and esports. And now that we have the government’s support, the NZESF are looking forward to solidifying esports in New Zealand’s sporting landscape” added Lenihan.
New Zealand was the twenty-fifth nation to recognise a national body for esports, as efforts are being made to add esports to the Paralympics and Olympics.
At the forefront of global sport, New Zealand often packs more punch than its size may suggest. The Kiwi Vice-President of the International Paralympic Committee Duane Kale attended the International Esports Federation (IESF) World Championships in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 2018. He spoke with IESF leadership at length on the capabilities of esports as a code in the Olympic and Paralympic ecosystem, as it provides ample opportunities for athletes across both sporting events.