The eSports realm is rapidly becoming more popular and relevant to professional football clubs. The likes of Paris Saint- Germain and Schalke have their own League of Legends teams, FC Copenhagen owns a Counter-Strike team and Wolfsburg signed two official FIFA players in 2015. The MLS also famously began an eCup venture inserting their interest into the field recently.
So where is this influx of eSports interest from football clubs coming from?
The eSports world is relatively unknown if you’re not paying attention, but if you are, you know it’s an enormous industry that is only growing in interest and participation. With the dawn of the FIFA game and platforms such as Twitch, the eSports world is well on its way to prominence. In basic terms, eSports provides another perspective of engagement with fans for clubs and leagues alike which allows the world of football to reach further into the sporting market in a different way.
This exact fact is true when it comes to the Premier League. The most famous league in the world recently announced its first-ever eSports competition called the ePL. The competition begins in January; with UK-based fans aged 16 and over eligible to enter the online qualification on either PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. They will compete to represent their club on FIFA 19 in the grand finals being screened live by Sky Sports in London at the end of March 2019. Unlike the annual FIFA eWorld Cup, which awards the winner upwards of $250,000 in cash prizes, the ePL will initially offer no cash prizes, just a trophy. However, the introduction of such a tournament, even in modest terms for the EPL, is a great place to start.
Before this collision of a professional football league and eSports, to broadcast such a competition meant one would have to search the forums of the gamer sphere to even know these things existed. Now the once misunderstood world of eSports has become what some players in the realm believe to be the next biggest sport in the world.
“We know that millions of fans play FIFA and this new esports competition will provide our clubs with an exciting opportunity to engage with them,” Richard Masters, Premier League Managing Director said in an article with ESPN on their new venture. The potential to engage with an audience the EPL has yet to tap into is a success on its own, but it is also another way of adding flavourful engagement with their current audience as well.
“Having the most popular football league in the world commit to competitive gaming in this expansive fashion we believe only accelerates the community’s enthusiasm for both FIFA Competitive Gaming and the Premier League,”Brent Koning, EA Sports FIFA Competitive Gaming commissioner said in the same ESPN article.
Such a venture is a whole new world for football and eSports alike.