The richest sporting body in Australia has its eyes on esports.
On May 6, the Australian Football League (AFL) and League of Legends developer Riot Games struck a deal to bring the popular MOBA to Melbourne for a special one-off event in November. The AFL is one of the largest sports events in the country, making the partnership one of the largest in Australian esports history.
Esports appears to be a growing interest for teams currently competing in the AFL, as well as the league itself. In the past six months, two of the league’s top performers, Essendon Bombers and Adelaide Crows, acquired Australian League rosters competing in the Oceanic Pro League.
On March 23, Nielsen Esports released an updated primer on the Australian esports audience. The research suggested that the audience in Australia is primarily male and between the ages of 18-35—which is akin to that of Australian football.
“I think you can’t just be looking at a traditional football offering if you want to keep expanding your audience,” the AFL’s general manager of growth, digital, and audience Darren Birch told the Australian Financial Review. “We’ve done research that show 22 percent of AFL fans are also interested in esports, so there is a connection there.”
The deal between AFL and Riot Games came on the same day of the conclusion of IEM Sydney, where fans Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fans filled up the Qudos Bank Arena—showcasing that Australia has a dedicated esports fanbase.
No specific date or venue for the upcoming League event has so far been revealed.