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e-Sports: Significant growth potential for traditional sports

In the US, E-Sports (84M) will have more viewers in every professional sports league but the NFL (141m) by 2021.

E-Sports has grown from its humble beginnings of games being played between friends at home on video consoles or arcades to world cup tournaments and professional gaming superstars.  Even today, E-Sports is a bit of a taboo.   But despite all the opinions and perspectives of whether it’s a sport or not, the fact is E-Sports is the fastest growing sport today, gaining in popularity quicker than any other sport and attracting significant sponsorship and investment from some of the largest global brands.  Industry experts value the industry at 1 Billion dollars, up 27% from last year, and that figure is growing significantly. It is expected that the industry will hit 1.5 billion dollars by the end of 2020. Not surpassingly, football clubs too have invested in their own branded E-Sports teams.  As early on as 2015, Vfl Wolfsburg fielded the first FIFA player representing a professional football club.  To date, the likes of Wolves, Roma, Manchester City, PSG, FC Copenhagen, Schalke 04 have all participated in some form of E-Sports competition or have professional players/teams.  

What is E-Sport. Professional gamers from across the world gather at organized video gaming events to compete competitively in popular household video game titles such as, LoL League of Legends, WoW World of Warcraft, Fortnite, CoD Call of Duty, Madden NFL and FiFA. The professional gamers enter leagues or play as part of a team of gamers known as a “clans” for monetary prize funds.  Some of the top gamers could potentially rack in 6 digit figures in a single year.  The current E-Sports number one KuroKy – Kuro Takhasomi is estimated to have accumulated 3.7 million dollars in prize money from 87 different tournaments.  And as the popularity of E-Sports continues to grow as will the prize funds. Fans stream live E-Sports events through online video platforms like Twitch (acquired by Amazon in 2014).  One of the key features of Twitch is that the platform allows fans to engage and make donations with pro gamers in realtime.  Fans receive instant recognition from the pro gamers who broadcast their names out across livestreams to 1000’s of people.

E-Sport Ecosystem The growth of E-Sports has opened up a range of new opportunities in tourism too.  Eager fans wanting to watch their favourite pro gamers compete are traveling to one-off events across the globe.  Big ticket events ESL ONE Frankfurt, LCS at Wembley, The International 4 are E-Sports equivalent of the European Champions League final, with fans traveling thousands of miles to be a part of E-Sports history.  More regular events such as WCS or GSL draw big crowds of gaming enthusiasts too. Sponsorship in 2019 for E-Sports has exploded with global brands fighting to sign up successful players and clans. Cloud9 & BMW, the world’s largest gaming organisation and one of the most recognisable car manufacturers announced a partnership in March 2019.  Since then Cloud9 has published a number of promotional videos in collaboration with BMW featuring pro gamers and the Cloud9 GM.  Cloud9 & Puma. Apparel partnership which see’s Cloud9 gamers compete in PUMA attire. 100Thieves & Totinos pizza – Team Liquid & Honda – Ninja & Redbull – LPL & Nike. The list goes on and on.  In 2017, Audi, German car manufacturing giant sponsored Astralis (team of counter-strike players) $750,000. 

The rise of E-Sports has allowed many enthusiasts to convert the hobby into a profession and a regular salary which can vary between $1000 – $15,000 dollars per month.  Top pro gamers salaries tend to be higher when signed on to professional gaming agencies or organizations which pay bonuses and benefits to their employees.  Social media engagements and interactions are key indicators used for the distribution of bonuses. E-Sports is also creating new employment opportunities.  E-Sports Head Coaches, Physios, Event Coordinators, Social Media Managers, Player Agents, Partnership Managers to name a few, are all similar roles which are not uncommon in traditional sports. E-Sports has become an exciting platform for traditional sports to merge with.  E-Sports provides a number of exciting growth opportunities in a market with uncapped potential.  Could we see a E.F.C Barcelona in some form, playing in an E LaLiga similar to traditional European leagues?  Though established, the E-Sports industry is missing the regulatory stewardship and governance it needs for continued growth and investment.  Were E-Sports to establish more frequent fixtures based upon traditional sports then I’d like to safeguarding and protection introduced.   Will we see the creation of competitive leagues and weekly fixture similar to traditional football and other sports?

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