The Premier League and the esports revolution
When it comes to esports, China is big business.
In England, there’s few more lucrative industries than football – and the Premier League most of all.
So, want to know what would mark an exciting development for British esports?
How about a collaboration between a Premier League team and a Chinese social media company to create an esports team? That should do nicely.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are making heads turn with their big money ambition this year, newly promoted to the top league but mixing it with the big boys in the top half of the table.
But that isn’t where their ambition stops. At the end of February they announced a partnership with Jingzong Culture Media Company to create Wolves Weibo eSports – joining forces with the existing Weibo eSports Club, themselves named due to a partnership with Sina Weibo, a social media platform with 445 million daily users.
“The esports market in China is growing at pace and we wanted to follow-on from the success of our existing esports team with a dedicated China presence,” explained Wolves’ head of marketing, Russell Jones.
This is just the latest step in a counter-intuitive push by the Premier League to corner the esports market.
You’d be forgiven for thinking one of the biggest institutions in global sport would see the rapid development of esports as a threat.
Instead, the Premier League and its clubs are doing everything they can to carve out their role in the esports revolution.
_MAN CITY LEADING THE WAY
Manchester City have led the charge into esports, beating Wolves to establishing a Chinese presence in June 2018 and signing sponsorship deals specifically for their gaming team with industry brands Turtle Beach and Nexon.
They have also partnered with Epsilon to send a team to global tournament, the Gfinity Elite Series, in 2019.
West Ham United are among the other British clubs to employ their own esports pros, while Manchester United were linked with the purchase of European esports teams as far back as 2016, although any move has yet to arrive.
So far the natural step has been for FIFA – EA Sports’ world-leading football title – to dominate output, but European clubs such as FC Copenhagen are showing that doesn’t necessarily need to remain the case, eschewing sport and establishing a Counter Strike team and looking to expand into Rocket League and Call of Duty.
But while these collaborations make sense on a financial front, how do old football men take to this bastardisation of the traditional understanding of sport?
_”ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS TO EVER PLAY THE GAME GOES DIGITAL”
Well, if their name is Ruud Gullit, the answer is that they’re taking it very well indeed.
Gullit, an AC Milan and Netherlands legend who won the Ballon D’Or and two European Cups in 1980s and 90s, has established his own esports team and has spoken glowingly of the potential of the industry.
“This is a new era, you have to adapt to it. You adapt to the new generation and what they have,” he said.
“When you see kids these days they don’t recognize you from your playing days, they know you from PlayStation.
“You can reach people, the whole world through this game [FIFA] and that is important. The exposure is unbelievable.”
The next step for the Premier League has the potential to take esports in Britain to the next level.
In October 2018 the inaugural ePremier League was announced, a joint venture between the Premier League and EA Sports which ties in all 20 top-flight clubs which gives fans the chance to represent their teams and fight for an overall title.
The final will be hosted live in London – and also broadcast by Sky Sports, giving the event massive exposure to an audience who may not be familiar with the industry.
This could be a watershed moment in the history of British esports.
And that’s why here at Orfi Media we’re so passionate about this opportunity.
Our first move into the industry is already up-and-running – and you can check out our Esports Finder website here.
Watch this space for future announcements, but we’re excited about what the rest of 2019 holds.
Interested in working with Orfi Media? Drop us a line at email@example.com and we’ll be in touch ASAP!