Esports At The Etihad? Where Do I Sign

One of the biggest trends in gaming for the last year is top sporting franchises buying up esports IP. Each major franchise wants to get its esports real estate before the whole thing gets even bigger, and the latest organisation to take notice is the Australian Football League — which also just happened to buy Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium last October.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Darren Birch, the AFL’s growth, digital and audiences general manager, said the organisation was keen to host an esports event in the newly acquired stadium to attract millennials. It might not have much to do with AFL, but it will make them aware of AFL a bit more. Plus, as Birch says, “These events sell out.”

He’s right about that, and Australia has shown it’s capable of putting on impressive, packed-to-the-rim productions as well. The recent Counter-Strike tournament at the Crown Casino was a big success, and Riot’s yearly grand finals are always huge. Of course, this weekend we also have the biggest competition we’ll have ever seen in Australia, Intel Extreme Masters in Sydney, and shortly after that will be Battle Arena Melbourne 9, an official Capcom Pro Tour event attracting the best Street Fighter players.

Yeah, we do alright.

In addition to the possibility of esports at the Etihad, the AFL wants its franchises to invest in esports teams just like their European and American counterparts. These range from bringing on players to compete under their name, to a normal sponsorship deal for a separate brand.

It’s a new area that everyone is still getting their heads around. For instance, are all these FIFA players required to use the team of the franchise sponsoring them? So far the answer is no, though they might be required to wear a jersey.

Another tougher obstacle is the fact that many contracts between players and teams aren’t as long or as strict as those in more established sports. With nothing to bind them there, what’s stopping a group of Call of Duty players from leaving shortly after an NBA franchise swooped in and acquired the team? Watch this space, because there are sure to be some interesting headlines in the coming years.

Hopefully in the short term we’ll just see headlines about esports at the Etihad. More is better! And Darren Birch seems to be clued in to its growth.

[Via The Age]

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