eSports: What Official Recognition could mean for eSports Teams and Football Clubs!

November 2017 marked a milestone for German eSports when Germany’s first ever national eSports Association, the eSports-Bund Deutschland (ESBD) was founded in Frankfurt. Part of its vision was to attain recognition so that eSports could be classified as an official sport. That goal is now closer than ever with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), reportedly agreeing to recognise eSports as a sport earlier this year. While the legislation has not yet been passed, the German Football Association (DFB) has also agreed to extend membership to eSports teams focusing on non-violent sports.

The move could signify big money for German football clubs in an industry that is already growing, and expected to develop exponentially in the next few years. The European market is second only to Asia, with PC Gamer reporting how eSports is already a €1.3 billion (INR 105 billion) industry. This included sponsorships, investments and merchandising, among others. With new government and DFB recognition of eSports as a legitimate sport, the economic and social potential is huge. Brand investment, sponsorship, and affiliation with Bundesliga football teams means more exposure and revenues for both regular teams and their eSports counterparts.

eSports is attracting millions of viewers and fans worldwide, as more players turn professional. The FIFA franchise by EA Sports has been at the forefront of this drive with the FIFA eWorld Cup gaining a 400% increase in online views. Digital media is now where many new fans are becoming interested in sport, and this is being reflected across various platforms. FoxyCasino is known for its sports themed slot games and one of its most popular is The Striker Goes Wild title. This game combines both football and online gaming in order to attract fans of both industries. With more people interacting with digital versions of sports, eSports has managed to become one of the fastest growing industries in the entertainment market. It is for this reason that top football clubs have started hiring professional eSports players.

After English Premier League club Manchester City created a dedicated eSport team, Bundesliga teams like FC Schalke 04 and VfL Wolfsburg followed suit. Wolfsburg was in-fact the first continental European club to do so, when they signed German FIFA player Benedikt Salzer. eSport players, like Salzer, are considered part of the club, as they wear the kit and represent it in international gaming tournaments. With official recognition, eSports teams can now form their own official clubs, and apply for not-for-profit status.

Official recognition could mean a watershed moment for Germany’s domestic sports industry, according to ESBD chairman Hans Jagnow. These include lucrative sponsorship deals and partnerships, like the deal between headset maker Turtle Beach and Manchester City. With the DFB being the largest national football association in the world, with 6.8 million members, eSports will quickly become mainstream with universal adoption as a sport. The result will be increased brand exposure for the clubs, as well as the opening of new markets for both sports.

About Arunava Chaudhuri

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