Over the past few years, electronic sports have evolved from a niche market into a multibillion-dollar industry. The rise of eSports is so fast and so clear that major businesses are clamouring to get a piece of the action. It is perhaps not surprising then that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has announced their desire to have a dedicated eSports tournament to run alongside the 2020 European Championship.
For those of you who are not up to date with your football trivia, the UEFA European Championship is a premier football competition organised by UEFA and held every four years. Breaking from tradition, the 2020 event will be hosted by 12 separate countries, in 12 cities around Europe. The winner of the event will automatically qualify for 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup. Portugal are the current champs, but will be put through their paces in 2020 when 23 other nations compete for the title.
How the Tournament Will be Structured
To mark the 60th year of the Championship Event, UEFA have broken all the rules with multiple hosts, and now they want to run an eSports tournament alongside the main event. As this point in time, UEFA have put out a proposal tender for companies to run the s tournament. No set structure has been put forward, but UEFA envisions a tournament where initial qualification events are done online, with the finals being a live event.
Once the bidding process is complete, the selected organiser will be responsible for just about every aspect of the tournament. This includes the format, the rules, the online qualification stage, the live event and all on-site operations. They would also be responsible for providing a live feed broadcast, as well as capturing and analysing all the data. While the marketing and advertising is at their discretion, it would be subject to approval by UEFA.
The link Between eSports and Football
While it is still to be confirmed, it is likely the eSport tournament will be football-based, as it will coincide with the Euro 2020. UEFA already has one licenced product in the form of their PES League World Tour, which is essentially the digitised version of the Champions League. The success of their relationship with Konami is certainly a major contributor to the development of a new tournament.
The link between football and eSports is becoming stronger each day. Major teams are professing their commitment to the genre, while other teams plan on using competitive video gaming to finance the signing of major players. FIFA has also joined the revolution with their much-publicised FIFA eSports World Cup. Launched in 2004, it is the one of the largest tournaments in the world. Over 3.5 million participants attempted to reach the 2018 finals held at the O2 Arena in London. Of the 32 finalists, it was Saudi Arabia’s Mosaad ‘Msdossary who took the title and the quarter of a million dollars cash prize.
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eSports at the Olympics
From a global perspective, eSports is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves. Recently the International Olympic Committee (IOC) openly recognised the opportunities for growth and integration of eSports in the Olympic environment. While we are still years away from an official Olympic event, the Asian Games in 2022 will be the first time sporting medals will be given out for competitive video gaming.
While the Olympic committee is aware of the global movement to electronic sports, it is concerned about integrating shooting/fighting games where killing is the main objective. Perhaps they may be more interested in sports-themed games like virtual football, basketball or Formula One. Whatever their decision, it is likely we will see competitive video gaming as a demonstration sport at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.