This weekend’s focus for most football fans may have been on the FA Cup Final at Wembley, but on Saturday and Sunday, Sky Sports accomplished something else.
It may have given viewers in the UK a glimpse intod the future of sporting television with its live coverage of the FIFA eClub World Cup 2018 from Paris.
Of course, this is not the first time a TV provider in the UK has broadcast esports. Indeed, there are dedicated esports channels running 24/7 on the Sky platform Ginx eSports TV.
The Saturday timeslot
The important thing about this particular broadcast was the time. On most Saturday afternoons in the UK, Sky Sports’ signature programme is Soccer Saturday, a football-based TV show featuring Jeff Stelling as the host and a number of regular pundits as guests. The show typically previews all the big Premier League games of the weekend.
This simple format has been a staple of Sky Sports programming for many years. It tends to draw higher viewership than other Sky Sports shows. Therefore, the Saturday afternoon slot is now a coveted one.
Last week marked the first occasion esports coverage replaced Soccer Saturday (which has come to an end for the current season).
What is the significance of this?
Although perhaps a small gesture, the significance of Sky choosing to put an esports event in one of its prime TV slots is huge.
By broadcasting the FIFA eClub World Cup 2018 on Sky Sports Football, Sky brought esports to a whole new audience.
In my view, it’s likely many general sports fans were intrigued as to what esports has to offer. For many, what they saw on Sky Sports Football on Saturday and Sunday may well have been their first experience with an esports tournament.
It is too early to say whether Sky’s decision to show esports on one of its top channels was a hit with viewers. However, it is indicative that esports is gaining broader traction.
Have we seen a glimpse of how future Saturday afternoons on Sky TV could look? And further, what did the viewers of the FIFA eClub World Cup 2018 see live on their screens from Paris?
How the FIFA eClub World Cup 2018 unfolded
This event was one of FIFA’s “Paths to the Playoffs” tournaments, which allowed individual players to earn one of four places up for grabs in the Global Series Playoffs. The top 16 players from Xbox and top 16 from PlayStation 4 will then qualify from these playoffs to compete in the FIFA eWorld Cup later this year.
As well as qualification to the playoffs and a $50,000 prize, there were plenty of bragging rights available in this unusual format competition.
Each team in the FIFA eClub World Cup comprised two players: one on the PS4 and the other on the Xbox One. The overall winner is the team that came out on top weighing both PS4 and Xbox One results.
Thus, a PS4 player could lose their game 3-1, but if the Xbox One player on the same team won their game by a 3-0 scoreline or better, then that team would still get the win.
Sixteen teams of two players took part in the event. Fourteen earned places as qualifiers, and two qualified automatically: PSG Esports were the host city team, and Brondby IF were the reigning champions.
The teams were drawn into an opening group stage comprising of two groups of eight teams.
- Group A – Method, Hashtag Academy, Arte Virtual FC, FC Basel 1893, Unilad, BU E-Sports, Transfermarkt Esports, FC Schalke 04 Esports
- Group B – Mkers, Team Envy, Falcons Esport, Brondby IF, Lightning Pandas, Xolos De Tijuana, Vfl Bochum 1848, PSG Esports
To start, there was controversy in the group stage when two teams, Arte Virtual FC and FC Schalke, conspired to play to a draw. This suited both teams for qualification, and neither player attempted to score for the final 30 minutes of the game. Talks are ongoing as to whether there will be any repercussions following this rather poor piece of sportsmanship.
In the semifinals, one of the most talented players in the world, Kurt0411, caused consternation by walking off stage after losing his temper during a match against Brondby IF player Ustun.
The final pitted Team Envy against last year’s champions Brondby IF. It produced a classic encounter.
In the first match, Eisvogel from Team Envy claimed a 4-1 win against Fredburg to put his team in pole position to win the trophy and the $25,000 top prize. However, Brondby’s FIFAUstun produced a stunning performance in the second game, winning 6-0 against Team Envy’s Aero to claim a 7-4 aggregate win and the top prize.
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