For the longest time the only similarity between football and video games was the EA game FIFA. But in the past few years many big-name football clubs have begun to invest and recruit in the esports sector.
In recent times many well-known football clubs have started to recruit players and teams into the fold of their own esports teams or collaborations moving past football’s relevant games such as FIFA and PES and into the full realm of online gaming including titles such as Counter Strike Global Offensive.
Manchester City have signed their first two esports stars in the form of former FIFA world champion Kai Wollin and Shaun “Shellzz” Springette, but clubs like Paris Saint Germain and Schalke 04 have signed entire teams to participate in other games like League of Legends and Rocket League, an online game of high-speed cars trying to push a ball into the other team’s goal.
With global attendance across all sports raising concerns over the belief of a lack of interest from the current and upcoming generations and the need to fill seats, many organisations have turned to new avenues not only for increasing revenue but for raising fan recognition as well.
Recent reports have shown that Twitch has accrued over 500 billion minutes watched in 2018 alone, and now many teams have recognised the profitability of entering the market of such a populated and growing industry. This trend has not only spread throughout the football industry but across sports franchises globally: there are currently 21 teams in the NBA 2k esports league and Formula One have seen hundreds of thousands of participants
in their esports tournament.
Not only have teams begun to involve themselves but individual athletes have been investing in and recruiting their own players to create teams across the many games involved in esports. Arsenal’s German playmaker Mesut Özil is one example as he created his own team to compete in major FIFA esports competitions while Christian Fuchs has
launched an academy to bring through new aspiring talent.
In the United States, esports has also been making waves with the involvement of current and former professional athletes, while the NFL’s recent partnership with Fortnite saw the game’s players given the ability to sport their American football team’s colours by getting one of the league’s official skins.
In games like FIFA, NBA 2K and Madden NFL, professional athletes and teams have long been portrayed in the gaming industry, but their inclusion in different realms of game is certainly new. Indeed, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s inclusion as a character in the famous first-person shooter Call of Duty only extends the trend.
The association between sports franchises and the esports industry seems as though it will only continue to grow as teams attempt to grow their fan bases and revenue through their esports branches and seek to leverage their appearance in games like FIFA and PES.