Essendon Football Club has acquired a professional esports team and will compete in the League of Legends, Oceanic Pro League and Oceanic Challenger League next year.
In partnership with Executive Sports and Entertainment (ESE), the Club has secured the licence of top tier esports team, Abyss, and will relocate the team to Melbourne.
The operations and management of the team will be fully integrated as a division of the Essendon Football Club, with a new name, brand and logo to be established.
The Club is committed to creating a professional culture and high performance environment for the team, providing the best facilities, programs and resources to deliver success in tournaments locally and globally.
Essendon Chief Marketing Officer, Justin Rodski, said the Club was delighted to be the first Victorian AFL Club to acquire a licence and first professional eSports team to be based in Melbourne.
“Esports is the fastest growing sports category in the world and is quickly changing the entertainment and sports landscape,” Rodski said.
“The international audience is close to 300 million people, the majority are aged 14-34 years, providing a unique platform to engage and reach a younger demographic of fans.
“As a Club, we are looking at ways to diversify our business, invest in growth and create new opportunities to drive incremental consumer and commercial revenues.
“Esports teams are no different to any other professional sports club model and esports fans are no different to any other sports fans in their passion to support their team.
“We will bring our expertise in elite and professional sport to strengthen the team across all areas, including a particular focus on player welfare and development.
“There is a rich and diverse community eco-system in esports and this is our opportunity to be culturally relevant to the millennial audience and engage a new fan base.
"Our investment in esports will not impact our core business of winning games of football. The team and players will align to our values as a Club and our vision of being the most respected, inclusive and successful Club in Australian sport.”
The global esports audience is projected to reach 400 million in 2018, made up of nearly 200 million esports enthusiasts and a further 194 million occasional viewers. In 2017 the eSports economy grew to US$696 million and brands spent approximately US$517 million on advertising, sponsorship and media rights. Consumer spending this year on merchandise and tickets will amount to US$64 million.
League of Legends OPL is the most developed and professional esports league in Oceania. Backed by Riot Games, the leading publisher in esports globally, the OPL provides teams a direct path to global competitions including the League of Legends World Championships.
Many professional sports clubs have invested in esports, including NBA teams Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, the New York Yankees, European soccer powerhouses Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, FC Schalke and AS Roma and in Australia, the Adelaide Crows.
Executive Sports and Entertainment (ESE), is a leading Sydney agency founded in 1998. ESE managing directors Leon Spellson and Rohan Sawyer have over 35 years combined experience in sports and entertainment industry and have been seen as key players in Australia esports commercially. ESE specialise in commercial rights across a number of sports and the joint venture with EFC is another high profile partnership for the agency.
Rohan Sawyer, Managing Director of ESE said: “We are thrilled to partner with one of the biggest and most respected sports Clubs in Australia.”
“Essendon is an iconic brand with a huge supporter base and we are excited to give our team members the opportunities to live their dreams under a great club.
“Esports has already exploded globally and we see League of Legends and the OPL doing the same here.
“The majority of gamers are aged 18 to 30 years old and with most sporting codes and brands are struggling to communicate with them, esports provides the platform for direct engagement.”
Daniel Ringland, Head of esports at Riot Games Oceania, said: “It is great to have another AFL Club come on board to support an OPL team. Next year is looking to be our most competitive year yet and it is going to be amazing to see AFC and Essendon go head to head in the OPL, just like they do on the footy field.”