Why are football clubs entering esports? A #bofcon2017 panel

At the fourth edition of SBC’s Betting on Football conference this week, of the 135 plus speakers, four of them discussed football clubs’ increasing involvement in esports. 

The panel, moderated by Esports Insider’s Ollie Ring, included the CEO of Fnatic Wouter Sleijffers, Co-Founder of Qwatti Esports Pedro Silva and STARK Esports Agency Co-Founder Martin Wyss. Speaking to a packed out room the four discussed the various ways in which clubs are entering the space, why they’re doing it and what the benefits are.

Including audience questions at the end it lasted for close to 45 minutes and it can be seen in full below after it was live streamed on the ESI Twitter.

Questions were asked about the nature and importance of relationships between publishers and companies from the regulated betting industry. This current lack of a relationship, and an avoidance of any affiliation with betting in any form by most game publishers, was raised by one audience member as the key issue surrounding betting integrity in the space. Whether this changes at any point soon looks highly unlikely.

Of the partnership between AS Roma and Fnatic, Sleiffjers said: “It’s AS Roma but Fnatic branded so as to maintain and utilise our legacy in esports. Of course FIFA still has a long way to go to develop its ecosystem and there are a number of issues which need to be ironed out. That said, it’s a good choice to for clubs to start off with and test the waters. If they find it successful and useful then perhaps they’ll try branching out into other titles.”

Both Pedro and Martin shared anecdotes of their experience working with football clubs as they enter esports. STARK Esports worked with one of the earliest movers VfL Wolfsburg whilst Qwatti have worked with Sporting CP, Legia Warsaw and Brondby. Whilst many esports fans and enthusiasts tend to scoff at FIFA as a competitive game, both agencies emphasised how important the EA title is to enabling the entry of football clubs. It was reiterated that speaking to football clubs and instantly telling them to spend a lot of money on League of Legends simply isn’t feasible. Virtual football is something that clubs immediately understand, and so too do their fanbases. It was suggested that clubs are slightly wary of Counter-Strike due to the “killing” aspect of Valve’s FPS title and thus FIFA is a better fit. 

All three members of the panel were in agreement that esports facilitates and opens up different revenue streams for football clubs. It opens the door to alternative sponsorship opportunities and the offers the potential to recapture the millennial audience which many believe to be slipping away from traditional sports. 

Esports Insider says: This proved a thought provoking and educational panel, and as the questions around publisher relationships and data issues at the end, it showed that there remain a wealth of discussions to be had around esports and betting specifically. One of the takeaways from this panel however is that football clubs stand to earn a great deal for relatively little investment into the esports space. 

Disclaimer: We are partnered with SBC Events – the organiser of Betting on Football