E-sports is a growing global phenomenon. With an estimated global revenue of $905.6 million and a fanbase around the 380 million mark, the burgeoning discipline has now ascended to one of the globe’s other major franchises: the Premier League.
The official ePremier League (ePL), which is making its debut in January 2019, has been well supported by Premier League clubs, with all 20 of them to compete in the competition’s inaugural year.
Amongst these, of course, are Manchester giants Manchester United and Manchester City. Manchester City, in particular, will be hoping to add to their glittering year with another trophy having recruited former FIFA world champion Kai ‘Deto’ Wallin.
The competition is still in its infancy. As such, the fledgling enterprise will comprise of three stages: online qualifiers, club playoffs, and a grand final, rather than taking on the traditional league format that the grass-based players adhere to.
The first stage will be used to narrow the pool down to a total of 320 players. Of these players, 16 from each club will then face off to ascertain two representatives for the final.
Each club will enter two players – one on the Xbox One, and one on Playstation 4 – for the final, which will take place over two days at the end of March. Although it is unclear precisely how the final will work, the ePL webpage states that “matches will take place over two legs in a group-stage format on both PlayStation and Xbox to determine an overall champion”.
The Premier League has been quick to praise the initiative, with Richard Masters, the Premier League’s Managing Director, saying, “millions of fans play FIFA and this new eSports competition will provide our clubs with an exciting opportunity to engage with them.”
However, this growing trend has not always been met positively. In September, a match between Swiss clubs FC Basel and Young Boys saw console controllers thrown onto the pitch in a protest against football eSports, whilst news that eSports could one day be in the Olympics was met with widespread public derision.
Nonetheless, negotiations with Olympics eSports continues, and the ePL provides another marker for the growth in popularity of eSports.