The Premier League, in partnership with Electronic Arts, has announced the inaugural ePremier League (ePL) tournament. The ePL will be operated by esports tournament organisers Gfinity.
All 20 current Premier League clubs will be represented in the inaugural tournament, giving UK-based FIFA players the chance to compete for the club they support in a competitive FIFA event.
The ePL will get underway in January with online qualification before leading into the Club playoff period from January-March, with the finals taking place in London on March 28-29, 2019 and broadcast live on Sky Sports and Premier League social media channel.
Richard Masters, Premier League Managing Director, had this to say: “EA SPORTS is a fantastic partner for the Premier League and we are looking forward to launching ePremier League with them. We know that millions of fans play FIFA and this new esports competition will provide our clubs with an exciting opportunity to engage with them. We can’t wait to get started with the opening online rounds in January 2019.”
Each team will be represented by 2 players, one from the PlayStation 4 and one from the Xbox One. Registration will open on December 3rd.
Todd Sitrin, SVP and GM of the EA Competitive Gaming Division, added: “The Premier League’s global reach and intensely passionate fanbase push EA SPORTS FIFA competition to unprecedented heights as we accelerate esports growth through traditional sports. Through the ePL, this partnership carves a critical path forward in expanding competition not only for players but for the hundreds of millions watching Premier League games who now can support their club on the virtual and the traditional pitch.”
The ePL will also play a part in the season-long FIFA 19 Global Series, with ePL participants earning points towards their Global Series participation, providing they are registered and verified to enter via FutChampions.com by October 31st, 2018.
Esports Insider says: It has been widely rumoured that the Premier League would be involved with FIFA sooner or later, with clubs all meeting at the end of last season to discuss Premier League policy, with the topic of esports participation was presented. The final outcome is certainly what you would expect, with all 20 Premier League teams participating it will give fans of both FIFA and their respected clubs something to cheer about.
What happens to the three relegated teams and the newly promoted clubs remains to be seen, One would assume the Premier League requires promoted clubs to participate. It does, however, present a larger problem; a situation might arise in which the player/club that wins the ePL final might represent a relegated club, meaning they would have to represent a club they don’t support for season 2 or EA and the Premier League sticks with the original 20 teams’ for now and adds more at a later date.
This is also another attempt to geolocate esports fandom, while you might not normally support any particular organisations in FIFA you might just support a player from the same country as you, so will this latest idea tap into another aspect of fandom? The Premier League clubs will certainly be hoping so, especially as an attempt to increase their brand power with the virtual world of football.