By Joseph Connolly
Ever since competitive gaming came on the scene, it has been widely treated with suspicion by the traditional sporting world. Many commentators stated that it was little more than a sedentary activity, and had little to do with sporting excellence. Despite these reservations, it seems that a growing number of football clubs and players are keen to get involved with the esports phenomenon.
From legendary football teams like Manchester City signing esports stars, to legends such as Gerard Pique setting up their own competitive gaming league, there are signs that esports is becoming increasingly attractive. Nowhere was this better seen than when it was revealed that the Premier League would be partnering up with EA Sports to establish the ePremier League. This gaming tournament would focus on the FIFA 19 football simulator game, and it would allow gamers to compete for their favourite Premier League teams in a bid to make an ePL final appearance that would be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
This follows on from the successful development of the FIFA eWorld Cup. This gaming tournament has been with us for well over a decade now and it sees the world’s best FIFA players taking part in an epic contest against millions of other gamers. Last year saw Mosaad Aldossary picking up a very respectable $250,000 in prize money as a result of his tournament winning performance, and it looks like the contest is becoming increasingly valued by traditional football clubs.
Many footballing stars have made little secret of their respect for sports simulators such as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. The Italian legend, Andrea Pirlo, once stated that the PlayStation was the best invention of all-time after the wheel, whilst the Argentinian ace, Lionel Messi, shocked the sporting world when it was revealed that he likes to play as Chelsea on FIFA.
However, it seems that it is the Spanish defender, Gerard Pique who seems to understand the true potential of football esports. After he concluded his footballing career, Pique was pivotal in establishing the eFootball.Pro league for the Pro Evolution Soccer series. The tournament was set up in conjunction with Konami and it has already attracted European footballing titans like Barcelona and Celtic.
Despite this, it seems that there is still a clear split in the competitive football gaming realm between Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA. As a result of this divide, many football clubs are also branching out to include teams for many more esports tournaments. We have seen Paris Saint Germain entering its own esports teams for games like League of Legends and Rocket League, whilst Juventus are just one of the major clubs who have become associated with the Overwatch gaming phenomenon.
Overwatch has become a hugely promising esport, and with a clear league structure featuring a fixed set of teams, it could be a good option for a football club looking to enter esports. Plus Overwatch has even reached the point where there are even websites that allow fans to bet on the outcome of the matches and you can read more about this here. But it seems that the majority of football clubs are keeping it safe for the moment by signing gamers to play in sports simulators such as was seen when Manchester City signed the reigning world champion FIFA player, Kai ‘Deto’ Wollin.
Whilst clubs like Manchester City aren’t exactly short of money, by investing in esports, they will be hoping to diversify the appeal of their brand name to include even those who don’t traditionally follow football. Not only will such moves ensure that they become familiar with the younger demographic who tend to bypass traditional media forms, but they will also ensure that their club becomes synonymous with sporting success even outside the footballing realm.Follow paulmbanks