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The importance of esports in football

Interest in esports is ever growing, Influencer Marketing Hub reports that in 2020 there are almost half a billion esports followers – and Newzoo predicts that the audience for esports will grow to 646 million by 2023.

Football organisations also have a presence within esports. FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Bundesliga are among the many clubs and leagues who run or participate in esports competitions.

The Entertainment Software Association found that in 2018 there were over 164 million adults in the United States who played video games. With the large amounts of people playing video games it makes sense for football organisations to become involved in this industry.

James Gallagher-Powell of CSM Sport & Entertainment at the ESI (esports Insider) Digital Summer conference said that esports can help football clubs to attract a younger audience.

“In terms of this younger audience, I’m sure that many of you have seen the stats before, probably from a brand sponsor perspective. So why do brands think about sponsoring an esports property over traditional sports property,” Gallagher-Powell said.

“The average age for a Premier League fan is 42 and rising, and no doubt is higher than 42 within developed fan markets like in the UK. This ageing fan base begs two questions to football clubs: How do the clubs ensure their longevity and remain relevant to the next generation of sports fans? And how do they ensure that their club remains attractive to potential sponsors?

“esports can provide the perfect channel for this. It’s a way that clubs can attract a younger audience to their core operations, i.e football, and it can help clubs to safeguard their future popularity and therefore their future profitability.”

EA Sports’ FIFA games have become incredibly popular over the years. FIFA 20 launched on September 27, 2019 and by October 10, 2019 over ten million people had played the game across various gaming consoles.

Although despite this popularity of football games, CSM Sport & Entertainment’s Account Director Debs Scott-Bowden at the ESI Digital Summer conference said that these games were only a small part of the esports world.

“But whilst FIFA and PES are good entry points for clubs to go into esports, for the wider esports communities, these titles are largely considered niche. So for clubs looking to reach a wider audience, football games aren’t necessarily the best route to achieve this.”

Bundesliga has its own Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship. The championship will start on November 10 and will be the third season of the competition. The Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship will feature clubs from both Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.

The Chief Executive of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga Digital Sports and DFL Executive Vice-President, Andreas Heyden told SportBusiness in November 2019 about the importance of the VBL.

“The growth of the Virtual Bundesliga since its inception shows how seriously we are taking the whole area of esports. We highly benefit from out club brands and players [being present] but also we have proven to have created ne of the highest degrees of authenticity of the Bundesliga in the virtual world of stadiums, clubs and players,” he said.

Bundesliga is taking its esports approach very seriously and has major plans for the Virtual Bundesliga and hopes it can grow.

“We want to grow the Virtual Bundesliga to become out third competition brand, alongside Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga in regards to media rights, participation of clubs and users in the open series.”

“There are not many leagues who are committed as we are to create an eFootball league, with the amount of focus we are giving and the investment we are providing.”

In Australia, Football Federation Australia has the E-League.

Matches are streamed live on twitch. The finals of the 2020 edition of the series unfortunately had to be postponed due to COVID-19. The finals were due to be held at an event in Melbourne on May 9.

At the end of 2017 when the E-League was announced then FFA Head of Commercial, Marketing and Digital, Luke Bould, spoke about the appeal of an esports league.

“FFA’s strategy is to build a competition that provides FIFA competitors with the ability to represent their favourite A-League clubs and create more fans for the A-League and Westfield W-League. This is also a great way to connect the League more globally and in particular, with an Asian audience who love football and FIFA, but may not yet know the A-League.”

During the A-League COVID-19 shutdown, a tournament was also organised which featured both gamers and A-League players.

It is great to see that FFA and the A-League does take esports seriously and is following the lead of other leagues such as the Bundesliga. The FFA should continue to do so and look into expanding its esports properties.

Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

SocaLoca: Revolutionising talent identification and tournament organising

SocaLoca co-founders Lionel Foy and Sayf Ismail are providing more opportunity for footballers across the world with their innovative platform.

The concept was born in 2016 when the two first met, and now the SocaLoca app is used by national federations in Belize and Cameroon for tournament organising.

There are two main goals of the platform. Equalising talent identification and becoming a hotspot for football tournaments and data.

Foy and Ismail recognised that the pathways for footballers in some countries weren’t as equal as others. Smaller or less resourced countries and continents simply don’t have the infrastructure that the big footballing powers do globally.

The app operates in a similar way to statistics platforms like FotMob or Transfermarkt, where player profiles and stats are collated for fans and other interested parties to view. However, there is also a self-management aspect to it.

Footballers can download the platform and build their own profile, showcasing their achievements, statistics, results and more for anyone to see. This goes from juniors all the way up to seniors.

This gives those players from lesser resourced regions the opportunity to be seen and scouted like any other player, from when they’re first starting out to battling their way up through the footballing pyramid.

Co-founder Arif Sayuti.

While there are concerns around the data-sharing implicit to the platform, measures have been put in place. Players aged between 7 and 12 must be registered by their guardians and have a limit on what information can be displayed on their public profiles.

The global interconnectedness that an app like SocaLoca offers is unlike anything seen in world football to date.

The other side of the platform is its use in tournament organisation. This links in with the player profiles, where players are registered within tournaments and competitions and have their results and statistics linked to their profiles.

SocaLoca’s Competition Management Module has already seen successful use in Uganda, Belize and Cameroon, and can be used by anyone on the platform.

Football Federation Belize is now using the SocaLoca app to organise and run all regional competitions, while Cameroon’s national football academy is now a partner of SocaLoca.

Results and statistics in countries all over the world are now available to recruiters and talent identifiers, making it easier for those who would be otherwise overlooked to get their chance.

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