Given that FIFA already has a vested interest in the FIFA eWorld Cup, it was only a matter of time before some of the other prominent football organizations sought to break into the booming esports industry.
Enter the Premier League. The English football body is now set to run a brand new esports tournament based on its most famous brand. The ePremier League will start its first season in January 2019.
Given the massively high profile of the Premier League, which enjoys a global audience (especially in Asia), this is a massive step for esports gaming in the UK. That national industry has, to this point, lagged behind some other countries.
That could change with this new tournament. Its title will be FIFA 2019 on PS4 and Xbox One.
There will be three distinct stages to the competition.
The action will begin in January with an initial online qualification round. Registration for the first rounds will be available on e-premierleague.com and opens in December. From all the online registrations, a total of 640 players (320 for PS4 and the same number on Xbox One) will progress into the Club Playoffs.
In this section of the tournament, there will be 16 players for both Xbox One and PS4 for all 20 Premier League clubs. Each of the 20 clubs will announce the time, date, and venue of their playoff event at which the 32 total competitors will be reduced to one player on each console per squad.
Those 40 players will then go forward into the finals. These will be hosted at the Gfinity Esports Arena in London and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports on March 28 and 29 in 2019.
No money on offer?
Disappointingly, there is no prize money for the winner of the ePremier League. However, the winner will receive FIFA Global Series points, which can count toward the players ranking to enter the next FIFA eWorld Cup in 2019. That tournament bears a cash prize of $250,000 for the winner.
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“We know that millions of fans play FIFA, and this new esports competition will provide our clubs with an exciting opportunity to engage with them,” said Premier League Managing Director Richard Masters in an interview with the BBC.
This step into the esports industry by the Premier League is not an unexpected one and follows the successful setting up of similar leagues in Germany, France, and the United States.
Pre-existing Premier League esports reps
In an interesting wrinkle, two Premier League teams, Manchester City and West Ham, have already signed FIFA esports players to represent them in tournaments around the world.
It is not yet clear whether these players will be forwarded to represent their clubs or whether they will have to take part in the qualifying process. Logic dictates that Manchester City and West Ham may well make announcements regarding this nearer to the start date of the tournament.
Esports awareness in the UK
Given the popularity of both the FIFA franchise and the Premier League in the UK, this is a sensible step for both EA Sports and the Premier League.
The fact that the tournament is only open to UK-based players is a national motivation. Plus, Sky Sports broadcasting the finals should mean a bigger audience for UK-specific esports than ever before.
However, for the tournament to succeed, I feel there needs to be something other than FIFA Global Series points on offer for the winner. While I am not expecting a prize fund equal to the $250,000 for the FIFA eWorld Cup champion, I think a significant cash prize, together with smaller prizes for players finishing in lower positions, would enhance the appeal. At the moment, this just feels like a satellite qualifier for the FIFA eWorld Cup.
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