But their bonds are growing. There is no better example than one recent esports move from the famous Scottish team Celtic FC.
Glasgow’s esports tourney
The club, which has enjoyed smashing domestic success of late, announced last month it will run its own FIFA 18 esports tournament. The online tourney will feature both competitors playing as Glasgow Celtic (to ensure parity) in head-to-head mode. The tournament is open to any UK and Ireland resident 16 or older. Players participate via Xbox and can also stream their games online.
The event winner will receive a stack of prizes, including a Celtic home jersey from this season, a scarf, and two tickets to two Celtic Champions League matches, one in Glasgow and the other in Paris.
Furthermore, the winner will take on one of Paris Saint-Germain’s own FIFA players in a special showdown.
Soccer and esports around the world
Football clubs incorporate esports into their business models all the time these days.
Paris Saint-Germain are actively recruiting players from other esports games to represent the club. Currently, PSG have signed players for FIFA and Rocket League, with an eye toward further expansion. PSG even run their own esports site.
Other football teams actively recruiting esports players to represent them include Manchester City and West Ham United in England, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven in Holland, Schalke 04 and Wolfsburg in Germany, Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, Valencia in Spain, and Santos in Brazil. Even FC Volga, a second-division team in Russia, have recruited their own FIFA player.
The recruited players aren’t limited to FIFA. Santos, for example, support teams in Call of Duty, League of Legends, Battlefield 4, and Crossfire tournaments. Valencia’s first two signings were Hearthstone players. Schalke 04 signed not only two big FIFA players but also a top European League of Legends team.
Turkish teams led the charge of football’s involvement with esports. Besiktas adopted a League of Legends team formerly known as Aces High, now going by the same name as their sponsoring soccer team.
Two other giants of Turkish football, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, also have their own strong esports teams. Fenerbahce recently made history, becoming the first Turkish side to make it to the league stages of the League of Legends World Championships.
Other sports connect with esports
It would be wrong to assume only soccer clubs are tapping into esports talent.
On Sept. 26, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers purchased Team Dignitas. The esports squad has been in operation for over 13 years and boasts some of the best gaming talent in the world today. How much that cost the 76ers has not been disclosed, but estimates range from $5 million to $15 million.
In Spain, the professional basketball team Baskonia purchased a League of Legends team last year. But the club has now expanded its operations to include teams in Call of Duty, CS:GO, FIFA, Hearthstone, and NBA2K.
Bet on the fact that many traditional sports franchises will watch how these first ventures into esports pan out. If the moves prove profitable, giants like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich won’t be far behind.
Why are sports clubs interested in esports?
Well, at least at present, it’s not for the money. Even the top-paying esports tournaments rarely have prize pools over $1 million. At the highest level of football or NBA basketball nowadays, $1 million is chicken feed.
More likely, the real reasons for teams’ involvement is to engage with perhaps the first generation of people for whom football is not something they compete in physically but rather online. The esports industry is vast and growing quickly.
By tapping into this next generation of gamer, sports clubs are hoping their teams will attract new fans in new ways.