Growing attraction of eSports is proving lucrative business model
SEB COE edging past long-time rival Steve Ovett to famously win gold in the 1500m in Moscow, 1980.
Usain Bolt not so much breaking the 100m world record but smashing it to smithereens in Beĳing in 2008.
Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis all achieving superb gold medal victories in their respective fields on the same glorious evening in London four years later.
All of these throw up iconic images from Olympic bygones and are indelibly etched on the minds of spectators across the globe.
Now, imagine that the year is 2024.
The Games in Paris are getting down to the nitty-gritty stage.
It has come down to this – one final match to see who takes gold and will be recorded in the annuls of sporting history.
Great Britain’s ‘Joe Bloggs’ is competing with a Japanese peer.
The pair are doing battle not on the track or field, but on screen, playing the FIFA video game series – a simulated computer game that sees gamers control teams.
This scenario may sound farfetched, but it could well become a reality.
Plans are already afoot for eSports – which simply stands for electronic sports – to be part of the Games, potentially as a demonstration sport in Paris in six years’ time.
Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was open to exploring the possibility of including eSports in future Games, before stating it “could be considered a sporting activity” but “must not infringe” on Olympic values in order to be recognised as a sport.
Since then it has been confirmed eSports will be a medal event at the Asian Games in 2022.
All of this goes to show that eSports is being taken notice of.
Such is the clamour for the activity that certain tournaments can attract thousands of spectators to huge, multi-plex arenas.
If you think those numbers are impressive then you should see some of the prize money handed out.
It is not uncommon for competitors, often aged between 17 and 25, to walk away with sixfigure fees for coming out on top.
Dr Nick Robinson is an Associate Professor in Politics and International Studies/ Videogames Research at the University of Leeds.
He believes that the appetite for eSports partly comes down to the lack of barriers that it takes to become a success.
“FIFA is the world-leading football video game in the world and it’s the game that predominantly young people will play,” Dr Robinson said.
“They have a growing association with all levels of football, with the Premier League and EFL.
“People that play it might well rise to a certain standard in the game.
“It’s a very democratic form of sport in that sense.
“For example, people who are disabled can be one of the best FIFA players in the world d.
“So there’s something attractive about it in that regard.
“Also, part of the reason that it’s growing at such a rate is because of the money involved in it.
“Recently, Michael Jordan (former basketball star, pictured right,) has invested a considerable amount of money into eSports in the US. .
“This kind of phenomenon of investing via high-profile entertainers is pretty widespread.
“There is a massive amount of interest in it, with millions of dollars in prize money up for grabs. Lots of people are watching it and there are a lot of parallels with real-life sport.”
The growth of eSports is not just restricted to the technologyobssesed heartlands of Asia and the United States.
Right here in the Broad Acres the ‘sport’ is beginning to take grip.
Last month, Rotherham United became the first professional football club in Yorkshire to have their own eSports team.
The concept will see a squad of players competing in a professional league, whilst representing the Millers. The link-up is one that is relatively new to the UK, but across the pond this arrangement is already proving popular.
Dr Robinson points to the recent example of teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
“This is a common pattern in the NBA,” he said. “There’s a game called NBA 2k19, which is as popular in the States as Fifa is over here.
“Almost all the elite level teams have their own eSports team who play in a competitive league.
“To give you some sense ab bout the amazing amount of f investment, the Toronto Raptors’ R eSports team all liv ve in a house together.
“They are paid a pr rofessional salary, train to ogether on a daily basis and th hen participate in these co ompetitions.
“It’s becoming an int tegrated model.
“Despite the arguments ov ver its classing as a sport, eS Sports require a vast am mount of skill and training an nd people at the elite level of it are actually considered ath hletes.
“If a lot of people start wa atching, then I imagine tha at almost every team will end d up having a professional eSp ports team sooner rather tha an later.”