It's no secret competitive video gaming, better known as eSports, has been riding an epic wave of popularity the last few years. And with that wave of interest came an extremely lucrative betting market. Major bookies the world over offer odds on all the biggest eSports events while international brands and major investors continue to flood the new sport with endless resources.
But despite the immense growth and success of eSports already, it's the newest group of investors and supporters of the sport that might be the most vital in reaching eSports' goal of establishing itself as one of the world's elite sports. Over the last few weeks, news has broke of more than a couple major football clubs showing interest in acquiring top eSports teams.
Some, like Valenica FC of Spain's La Liga, have even started formulating their own teams to compete. Notable clubs joining Valencia's push into eSports include Manchester United, as well as fellow Premier League member, West Ham and Schalke of Germany's Bundesliga. But what does major football clubs acquiring eSports teams mean for the world of eSports betting?
eSports isn't the first sport to see a growing investment interest from professional football clubs. Basketball found unprecedented success in the United States for a few decades before Spain and the rest of the world began taking the sport seriously. But thanks to some major football clubs and their larger-than-life notoriety, professional basketball in Spain was able to take off.
Topnotch football brands like Barcelona started slapping their names and logos on professional basketball teams in Spain back in the 1920's in hopes of drawing in some of their football fans to the budding sport. Well it worked; most of today's major professional basketball teams outside the US are part of larger Spanish sports clubs that originated as football clubs.
Along side Barcelona in the league, you'll see familiar names like Real Madrid and Málaga, both major Spanish football clubs as well. So what does this have to do with eSports? Well, professional basketball in Spain is a great example of the benefits a budding sport can receive by sporting already familiar team names and brands.
Topnotch clubs like Man United and Valencia securing their own eSports teams could potentially push the sport over the edge and onward to the upper echelon of sports. Top eSports teams will be immediately associated with the world's top football teams, a connection sure to boost the sport's overall notoriety and ultimately the sport's success.
Valencia FC of Spain's top professional football league, La Liga, confirmed last week they have started their own eSports team. The group of gamers will don the heralded Valencia FC crest and carry the clubs name.
It was not yet confirmed which games the team will be participating in but most assume at least Hearthstone and Rocket League will be highly considered. The club is also touting the world's leading video platform and community for gamers, Twitch, as an official partner.
Along with Valencia, Schalke of Germany's Bundesliga is the other major football club already confirming acquisition of their own eSports team. The German club did not start their own team but instead purchased an already well-established League of Legends team.
The next topnotch club set to join the fold of eSport team owners could be the most important for eSports' notoriety in the United Kingdom, a region lagging behind in terms of the sport's growth. Manchester United is currently in a highly competitive bidding war for a topnotch Overwatch team. The top English football club is battling one of the largest competitive gaming organisations on the planet, Fnatic, for the eSports team's rights.
Fellow EPL member, West Ham decided to take a more conservative appraoch to the budding eSports market, only signing a single gamer versus a whole team. West Ham announced last month their signing of pro FIFA player Sean "Dragonn" Allen.
So what do all these major football clubs joining the fold of eSports mean for its betting market? Well, the most notable advantage to punters comes in the form of market growth. The eSports betting market finds most success in the US and Asia - as those regions tout the most popularity for the sport - but if the United Kingdom can harness the popularity of its top football clubs, an expanded European betting market is sure to follow.
A bulk of the UK's top online bookmakers offer eSports markets in some form but its the British punters themselves the sport's investors are after. If UK punters start to turn some of their attention from football to eSports, the market is sure to see a massive spike. Using familiar brands like Man United is great way to start grabbing that attention.
Along with market growth, extensive resources could be poured into the sport through these extremely lucrative football clubs. Take Manchester United, who is currently in a battle with the world's largest eSports organisation, Fnatic, over a coveted Overwatch team they both are looking to sign.
A quick comparison of the two brand values reveals just how much more powerful these clubs are compared to the initial team owners currently populating the sport: Manchester United is currently valued at around £2 billion, or $3.3 billion in the US, while Fnatic - despite it's lofty status within the industry - received a valuation at only around £30 million or $42.5 million.
The money, power, and influence behind these massive football clubs is undeniable. Ensuring their embrace of eSports results in one of the more popular betting markets on the web? Well that only time can tell. As you wait to see what these clubs' teams will have to offer, head over to Betfair Sports today to check out the budding eSports market before the rest of the world does!