While eSports rage battle, yearning for recognition and acknowledgment of being considered a real sport, traditional sports organizations have had no problem recognizing the potential value of owning an eSports franchise. eSports, which encompasses a wide range of video games, is an industry blossoming and ripe for investment opportunities.
Thanks to technological advancements that reach a worldwide audience now, such as high-speed internet and the development of streaming platforms (like twitch.tv), eSports has become a hot commodity. Below is a brief overview of some of the traditional sports organizations (such as soccer clubs) that have now invested in eSports.
FC Schalke 04
FC Schalke was all in with eSports this past year, jumping right in and grabbing spots in two popular eSports. The second largest football club in Germany, behind only Bayern Munich, FC Schalke now has contract agreements with two FIFA players and also purchased Elements spot in the EU LCS League of Legends bracket.
Moritz Beckers-Schwarz, The chairman of the board at FC Schalke 04 Arena Management, elaborated why his organization is interested:
“We have noticed that the level of professionalism in eSports has continued to grow over the past years. Particular noteworthy is the development of structures within League of Legends and the flagship League of Legends Championship.”
Valencia went in a different direction then FC Schalke, preferring to make more subtle acquisitions in the eSports industry instead of just boldly purchasing a professional team. One of the biggest spanish soccer clubs, Valencia has started out by picking up a few successful Hearthstone players.
Valencia has also stated they will be aggressively seeking expansion into the eSports industry, starting with a Rocket League tournament sponsored by them in association with Playstation.
Besiktas was one of the first true professional sports clubs to purchase the rights to a professional League of Legends team. The turkish club acquired the right to Aces High, then rebranded the team as Beşiktaş OHM. The team now competes in the Turkish Champions League. And yes, they still compete in the traditional white striped jerseys that the soccer club does!
Manchester City has just recently started to become active in the eSports scene. That started with the recruitment of a young FIFA player who Manchester City then appointed as their lead role in the their new eSports division.
Recent rumors also swirled around the eSports community of a potential bidding war between Manchester City and Fnatic over the rights to an Overwatch team. With Fnatic picking up the rights to the team, Manchester City has since stayed within the FIFA realm of eSports.
Wolfsburg’s fame to claim is being the first sports organization to sponsor an eSports player. The German soccer club picked up FIFA player David Bytheway from Wolverhampton. Wolfsburg has yet to expand beyond FIFA.
A popular spanish basketball team, Baskonia has expanded on their eSports operation quite significantly over the past year. While their roots can be traced back to a domestic League of Legends team, Baskonia now has venture obligations in FIFA, Hearthstone, NBA 2K, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Call of Duty.
Another Premier League Club diving head first into the eSports waters, West Ham immediately signed Sean ‘Dragonn” Allah after his second place finish at the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup. The London based club has future aspirations of advancing into other markets besides FIFA.