Liga Portugal, Valencia CF, and Celtic FC discuss the future of football and esports

During the e-Taça CTT by Allianz event which took place in Braga last week, Liga Portugal’s Executive Director took to Twitch to discuss how the league are now embracing esports.

The panel, organised and hosted by Qwatti eSports Agency, saw Pedro Correia, Executive Director of Liga Portugal, Sergio Benet, GM of Valencia CF Esports and Miguel Pacheco, Business Development Executive at Celtic FC discuss the crossover of football and esports. Someone called Sam Cooke, Esports Insider Editor, sat in the moderator’s chair. 

For those with 45 minutes to spare, you can watch the panel in full below:

Valencia CF is a club with more history than most in esports. The Spanish giants have held teams in both League of Legends and Rocket League, and right now they maintain rosters across FIFA, Pro Evolution, Hearthstone and Clash Royale.

Of the decision making process in selecting the titles they compete in, Benet noted: “With League of Legends, it was simple for us. It’s the biggest esport and we wanted to show people we were serious about esports and that it’s not a merely a marketing stunt.

“If we talk about FIFA or PES, it’s easier for the fans to understand as the football crossover is clear for anyone to see. But then these games don’t, right now at least, give you what other esports titles can provide. Any time we consider an esports title, we create a pros and cons list.”

(From left; Miguel Pacheco, Celtic FC, Pedro Silva, Qwatti Agency, Sam Cooke, Esports Insider, Sergio Benet, Valencia CF Esports, and Guliherme Fraga, Qwatti)

Benet explained how for this reason, games such as CS:GO were deemed unsuitable due to the possibility of upsetting their key audience. “We are of course a football club first and foremost and so the choices need to make sense here,” he added. 

He continued: “This new generation speaks a whole new language, and we need to learn how to communicate with them. We’re trying to learn how to do this. When it comes to selecting which games we compete in, we must first ask what we want out of our involvement in esports.

“With League of Legends, it was simple for us. It’s the biggest esport and we wanted to show people we were serious about esports and that it’s not a merely a marketing stunt”

Over in Glasgow, Celtic FC are yet to sign a player to their ranks but, quite recently, held a FIFA tournament in co-operation with Qwatti. On this point Pacheco said: “The appetite is definitely there. The amount of sign ups we saw for this tournament was unexpected, and we were featured on the Twitch homepage which was great for our first tournament“.

Pacheco also discussed the difficulties of Pro Clubs mode and the logistical complications of hosting tournaments in 11v11. Of course it’s 1v1 which is proving the main mode for professional FIFA esports, but we’ve seen some entities trying out 11v11 such as the VFO in Spain, and the recent introduction of Virtual Pro Gaming which has seen partnerships with QPR, Port Vale and Fleetwood Town.

Pacheco noted: “It becomes logistically difficult, as you’re moving an entire squad around, and not just the players, coaches and kit but the equipment too. For me, FIFA esports is more of a gateway to the wider world of esports.”

On this point Benet added: “In Valencia we’ve tried 11 versus 11, and in my experience there’s a lot of work to do as it’s not working how it could or, perhaps should, do. It’s totally logical for a football club to start with a football game, either FIFA or PES, but clubs need to go farther than this.”

Liga Portugal Executive Director Pedro Correia explained how they’ve been in communication with the Bundesliga, the Eredivisie and Ligue 1. He said: “There is no standardisation as all of these leagues are doing it differently. Right now we’re not too interested in having our clubs playing with the likes of Real Madrid or Man Utd. We wanted some promotion of our own competition.

“That said, we do see in the near future the potential for a Champion’s League of esports. Right now it’s time to position ourselves properly, to attract all of the Portuguese clubs to this idea and see what fits for Portugal.”

“We believe that the way football is consumed today is very different from ten years ago”

Of the potential for brands and sponsorship opportunities for football clubs, the trio seemed in agreement. Celtic FC’s Pacheco noted: “It can attract a different set of brands which usually don’t have an interest in just football. Now they no longer need that mass awareness, but they might be keen on the kind of targeted communication with a younger and harder to reach audience such as is prevalent in esports.”

“For us it’s an interesting conversation we’re having with our current sponsors. It’s not just about sponsorships either, peripherals such as chairs and gaming equipment are business revenues which will be added onto the esports case.”

Correia added: “We believe that the way football is consumed today is very different from ten years ago. And we believe that in the future it will attract a different type of sponsors, but it will have some complementary aspect to football as we know it.”

This panel investigated the crossover of football and esports specifically, but there is of course a much greater convergence of sports more widely. It is this wide ranging topic which our own Esports Insider Super Forum will explore in detail on March 22nd at Stamford Bridge.

This will have over six panels and workshops with panels covering issues such as why sports clubs are entering and how they should go about it, the media rights and broadcasting landscape, the value of esports team investment, case studies and much more.

We’ve a host of experts lined up ready to share their expertise and views with attendees, and these include RFRSH CEO Nikolaj Nyholm, Team Vitality CEO Nicolas Maurer, and the CEO of North, Christian Sorensen. Sorensen comes from a sporting background and FC Copenhagen, and it’ll doubtless be time well spent to hear from him about the formation of North and FC Copenhagen’s plans with it.

The ESI Super Forum will also see speakers from the likes of ESL, Hi-Rez Studios, Fnatic, Code Red, Gfinity and more. You can find out more and secure your tickets here.