The Champions League is the biggest and richest international soccer club tournament in the world. Each year, European football’s most prestigious teams compete before billions of fans across the globe.
Now, following the announcement that the Premier League is setting up its own esports league alongside the FIFA eWorld Cup, UEFA is making its foray into esports. The inaugural eChampions League tournament starting in March 2019.
How the UEFA eChampions League will be organised
UEFA has put a prize pool of $280,000 on offer for the first eChampions League, with $100,000 of that going to the winning player.
There will be a global online knockout tournament phase, which will take place on March 2-3, after which a total of 64 players will progress into a live qualifying event. That will be held in April with details forthcoming.
In the qualifying event, the 64 competitors will be whittled down to the final eight, who will then go forward to the finals tournament in May. That will take place on the eve of the Champions League Final itself on May 31.
The eight finalists will begin the finals by taking part in a draft, selecting their squad of players from footballers involved in the real-life UEFA Champions League Group Stages, comprising 32 of the top teams from around Europe.
Unfortunately for XBox fans, the tournament is scheduled to take place on the PlayStation 4 (according to the BBC), but it has been confirmed that the tournament will form part of the FIFA 19 Global Series of tournaments.
Football’s different approach to esports
This latest announcement is another example of how an existing sport is moving into esports. However, football is doing things its way.
For other esports, such as League of Legends, Dota 2, or CS:GO, tournaments tend to be organized by companies with a vested interest in those esports, such as game developers, their sponsors, hardware and software manufacturers, etc. For FIFA’s top-level events, it is the football industry itself that has become the driving force.
FIFA have taken the lead by running the FIFA eWorld Cup and its Global Series with great success for a couple of years now. We mentioned the Premier League’s big move at the top. Furthermore, the professional leagues in France, Australia, the United States, and Germany have already set up their own esports leagues.
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Rather than leave it to EA or its sponsors to sort out tournaments, football’s governing bodies are employing people with the expertise and knowledge of the esports industry to organize and develop tournaments that have relevance and appeal to the top esports FIFA players.
Indeed, this is a model that has enormous potential for further growth when you consider the football markets around the world, such as in South America, Asia and even certain parts of Europe.
A possible blueprint for future Olympic inclusion?
It is already known there are several dissenting voices within the International Olympic Committee regarding esports’ inclusion as an Olympic sport, chiefly because of the so-called “violent” nature of some of the most popular titles.
However, if the IOC were to follow the lead of F1, FIFA, UEFA, the NBA and various top football leagues from around the world, they could well develop their own esports tournament to be part of a future Olympic event.
The main barrier to that is the lack of software with broad appeal among gamers. However, that is not an insurmountable problem. A recent tennis game has been designed and released specifically to encourage esports gaming. The popularity of past Olympics-themed games, even harking back to the days of Track and Field in the arcade, or Daley Thompson’s Decathlon from the era of 8-bit computing, show that if a game is good enough and competitive enough, it will attract people to play it.
Therefore, it would not surprise me to see the IOC begin work with interested software development companies to see if a non-violent, sporting game could be developed for future esports inclusion in the Olympics.
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