The English Premier League sees esports as some of its biggest competition.
EPL executive chairman Richard Scudamore told BBC Radio 5 Live that “digital gaming” and “social media” were the biggest competitors to soccer’s supremacy, not other sports, at the Premier League launch yesterday.
“We see what's entertaining young people as being a competitor to try to make sure they stay interested in this type of thing, which is why the whole community-based activities, the whole interactive-based activities, are so important,” Scudamore explained.
While Scudamore never specifically mentioned esports or competitive gaming, the esports phenomenon is the convergence of all the factors he sees as bigger threats to soccer than other traditional sports. Esports is nearly a billion dollar industry, according to SuperData Research, and has quickly become one of the hottest new properties for investors seeking to enter the sports market.
Multiple professional soccer teams have picked up esports players in the past year, including Premier League sides Manchester City and West Ham.
One of the key reasons esports resonates with younger generations isn’t just that they are avid video game players themselves, but that esports is so connected with social media. Pro players like Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg are just a click of a mouse away. Fans can interact with pros directly via stream chat on Twitch and gain a window into their life through other social media. Good luck doing the same with Cristiano Ronaldo.
There’s a wall between pros and fans in traditional sports that just doesn’t exist in the digital world, and that’s something soccer will need to overcome, Scudamore believes, to connect with the youth.
“The interesting bit about the future is whether this game will continue to engage them, and that's why we have to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure it does.”