Schalke, PSG and West Ham show the divergent directions over the future of football clubs’ participation in esports
German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 are one of the first football clubs in the world with their own Esports division which involves rather more popular titles than EA Sports’ FIFA.
Last year, the club’s team was relegated from the EU LCS, the European League of Legends Championship Series, and has recently qualified again. And after that success, they have appointed Hans Christian Dürr, formerly the Europe Esports director of Splyce, as the team’s head coach, while former manager Tim Reichert has moved up to become chief gaming officer at the club, looking at the teams’ strategic approach.
The restructuring shows that the team are gearing up for a big season back in the series this year. For more than a year, it’s been rumoured that more and more football teams and leagues were becoming more and more interested in Esports, hiring gamers for their teams and building teams. But recently, that’s cooled somewhat. The relegation of Schalke last year seemed to show that, although there is a natural link between professional clubs and the FIFA series, there may not be much more to it. And although some European clubs like Schalke and PSG, who both have League of Legends Esports teams, are also multisport institutions, most clubs don’t have those other branches, and their route into the sector might be less obvious than first thought.
Recently, West Ham United’s gamer Sean ‘Dragonn’ Allen left the club, and it looks as though teams are finding it tough to figure out exactly what they want from Esports, which is a sector that is growing so fast that everyone wants a piece of it.
There have, however, been teething problems. After their promotion, Schalke are now the only professional football club to have a team in the LCS, after Paris Saint-Germain Esports pulled out of the competition earlier this month in a row over the revenue share model put in placed by organisers Riot Games.
Schalke’s commitment to the cause, though, in spite of the fact that other football teams seem to be taking stock of their Esports options, and the fact that PSG’s own team has taken a big step in removing itself from the competition, is good news for the league and is an interesting development in the saga of professional football teams getting involved with Esports.
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