If you have not heard of esports by now, have you been living under a rock for the past several years? Esports have turned from an underground scene of a group of nerds playing computer games competitively in a garage to a wildly successful entertainment sport. With a global audience numbering in the tens of millions and a variety of rich and wonderful franchises, esports have become the epitome of 21st century sport.
Football now has an esports scene. EA Sports’ Fifa 17 was the companies first stepping stone into the esports market. The Fifa 17 Ultimate Team Championship was a huge success with Fifa 17 players from around the world competing for a prize of over $1 million.
Due to the success and audience numbers of esports, Premier League clubs have begun to take an interest and invest into esports. Here is a list of English Premier League clubs so far that have begun their esports adventure.
West Ham United were the first Premier League team to toss their hat into the esports ring. In May 2016, the Hammers recruited professional FIFA player Sean ‘Dragonn’ Allen in order for him to represent the club at FIFA tournaments. At the time, Allen was arguably the second best FIFA player in the world after he came runner-up at the 2016 Fifa Interactive World Cup. Unfortunately for him, earlier this year West Ham dispensed with the services of Allen.
Strange day! Having pictures with fans and signing autographs! The stadium is looking amazing as well! pic.twitter.com/WJWjHsbWMK
— Sean Allen (@DragonFIFA_) July 25, 2016
Instead, the Premier League outfit signed an esports athlete who, in April this year, was ranked as the best Fifa 17 player on the Xbox. Jamie ‘Jamboo’ Rigden signed for the club in April and will represent West Ham in competitions and events all over the world. Rigden has over 50,000 subscribers on YouTube which shows that by signing Rigden to their rooster, West Ham are continuing their focus on digital innovation. Rigden has already represented his new team at the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championships Series and you can see him do so again at the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
Tottenham Hotspurs are certainly aware of the tremendous growth that esports has seen within the past several years. So much so, they have outlined a desire to use their new stadium for hosting esports events. Totenham club chairman Daniel Levy, is hoping to rake in £3 million per event from their new stadium by hosting esports tournaments. The majority of the major esports tournaments take place in the summer months – so in between Premier League seasons. It shows fantastic foresight from the London based club, even more so if Tottenham create their own esports team like somemajor sporting clubs have. Another reason for Spurs’ decision to venture into the world of esports is to create ‘more than just a football club’ according to Donna-Maria Cullen, the club’s executive director.
Totenham’s new ground would likely be seen as a perfect place to host esports events, assuming the club are able to ensure all the correct ingredients are in place. Esports require, obviously, television screens – big ones. The USA, South Korea and China all have their own purpose built esports stadiums, so if Spurs want to attract the big esports events, they’re going to have to ensure that New White Hart lane will be up to esports’ standards.
In July 2016, Manchester City became the second Premier League team (after West Ham) to sign an esports athlete to their ranks when they signed 18-year-old Kieran “Kez” Brown. In a similar fashion to the situation at West Ham, Kieren will represent his new Premier League club at Fifa 17 esports tournaments. But the Citizens did not only sign Brown for his FIFA skills. Brown has his own empire of social media channels, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter all of which Man City will be hoping to utilize to their advantage.
Earlier this year, in an effort to boost their brand abroad, Man City hosted their very own Fifa 17 cup in the United States. Any American over the age of 13 was invited to compete whilst every competing player had to choose Manchester City to play with. The finals were streamed live on the clubs Twitch channel to the whole world.
Esports: the future
Due to the success of the wildly exciting entertainment sport that esports have become, it is almost certain that other Premier League clubs will start investing into esports in some way. Although esports is an umbrella term for a variety of different games, the Fifa franchise as an esport is very similar to real football, which is, without doubt, the most popular sport in the world.
Indeed, viewers of fifa are now able to bet on the outcome of an online match esports match much like they would a real football match. And with Fifa 18 set for release in September, EA are putting all their financial might behind the franchise in order to enhance its esports scene and put it up there with the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2 as esports royalty. A variety of other sports clubs have invested in esports from NBA teams to European football clubs. According to Newzoo, esports revenues will blast through the $1 billion mark by 2020. Some of the biggest companies and banks in the world have already invested in esports, the likes of Samsung and American Express foresee a future heavily represented by esports.
In conclusion, do not be surprised if, for whatever reason, your favourite Premier League club announces a venture regarding esports in the near future. Smart, forward thinking clubs will do this sooner rather than later.