The Forward View

Understanding the surge of interest in esports

Throughout lockdown, video games and in particular, organized, competitive, multiplayer video gaming (esports) have provided a much-needed distraction for sports fans missing the excitement of live-action sporting events.

There has been an explosion of both brand and celebrity endorsement with Formula 1 hosting the virtual Grand Prix series, whilst Nascar hosted the inaugural eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational on March 22nd which attracted 903,000 viewers when shown on Fox Sports FS1 in America.
Diogo Jota (Wolves) triumphed in the first ePremierLeague Invitational Fifa 20 tournament, with James Maddison (Leicester City) winning the second tournament a week later. Both events streamed live, and were televised via Sky Sports, allowing viewers access to professional footballers and special guests challenging each other in a knockout Fifa 20 esports competition.

Representatives from 128 professional football teams from across the globe took part in the Ultimate Quaran-Team Fifa 20 tournament, which was the idea of the innovative Media Team at Leyton Orient FC.
Matches were streamed live over the internet, with a JustGiving page encouraging voluntary contributions to fund EFL clubs, who have lost revenue due to the postponement of league fixtures. Contributions were also raised for the EFL’s chosen charity MIND, and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fundraiser.

The ePremier League #StayAtHome Cup broke the celebrity template by inviting participants from the Premier League Kicks programme to compete in an online Fifa 20 tournament, supported by EA Sports and hosted by Battlefy. 
Running alongside this tournament was the ePremier League Academy Cup, with a total of 975 youngsters from Premier League and Category One Academies competing to crown a Fifa 20 champion.   

Raising funds for the EFL’s official charity partner, MIND, the EFL Football Manager Cup brought together 54 Clubs, each represented by a mix of current professional players, backroom staff and the Football Manager gaming community, for a Football Manager knockout tournament on PC.

The momentum is clear to see but in this, the most challenging of times, what will the New Normal look like?

There is a great opportunity to embrace this rapid surge of interest in esports and the blurring of the lines between traditional sports and competitive gaming.

Which route to take?

In 2019 Manchester City launched an official esports team to play in the Online Star League in China., to link in with the priority of building the City brand in that country.
This is understandable because the figures around esports are very impressive:
According to research conducted by GlobalWebindex, 30% of all internet users now watch live streams of people playing videogames, which equates to a potential global audience of over 1 billion.

There is another way

The common denominator between live sports and esports is the desire to belong, which is the essence of any team sport.

In our 2020 Fan Engagement Survey 100% of Clubs surveyed said they could be more effective in engaging with a younger fanbase.

To reach out beyond Fifa YouTube veterans and celebrity endorsement, LCG events enable Football Clubs to take esports back to grassroots, making it accessible to all.
All of the kit at a LCG event is provided by ourselves, consoles, monitors, software, meaning that no child is excluded from taking part through not having access to a console or a suitable high-speed internet connection.

To ensure the correct health and wellbeing message is amplified LCG will strive to ensure all event 3rd party promotional activity is in line with the age of those taking part.
Each LCG event is designed to be truly accessible, to encourage youngsters who previously might have avoided physical sport or group activity, to sample the match day experience and belong.

As the restrictions put in place during lockdown start to ease, LCG will release further details of how the surge of interest in esports can be a catalyst to further engage with a younger fanbase.

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