Most football clubs entering esports right now do so via FIFA and so in that regard, Lyon don’t stand out. The one major point of difference though is that they’re the first European football club to do so in China.
A somewhat surprising move from the Ligue 1 club saw them announce the signing of four FIFA players in Beijing this week. They are Feng Rui, Song Di, Xu Qingmu and Sun Jiangfeng. The four will compete on behalfo Team OL in the fourth season of the FSL League, an e-league organised by Tencent Games. This isn’t the club’s first move in esports; earlier this year Lyon signed FIFA player Fouad “Rasfou” Fares.
In China the OL recruits will be playing not FIFA as we know it in the UK but a version of the game called FIFA Online 3. It’s a free to play version developed by EA but published by various companies in China, South Korea, Thailand and other countries in Asia. It has a sizable player base and community with over ten million monthly users.
This move by Lyon is a continuation of its deals with China. This began in December 2016 with the participation of investment fund IDG Capital who took a 20% stake in OL Groupe’s capital holding. The collaboration was part of a joint venture called ‘Beijing Lyon Xingzhi Sports Culture Co., Ltd’ along with Xingzhi Sports, an affiliate of IDG Capital and OL Groupe.
Esports Insider says: A fascinating move by Lyon and a logical attempt at growing its brand overseas and reaching a whole new fan-base. Whether other big European clubs follow suit remains to be seen, but we know that Man Utd, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are already incredibly popular in China and are focused on ensuring this continues long term.