Updated: Saturday, 25th November 2017 @ 8:08am

'It’s mind-blowing how far it has come': Gaming industry and football grow closer with professional tournaments

'It’s mind-blowing how far it has come': Gaming industry and football grow closer with professional tournaments

| By Tom Avery

The relationship between professional football and gaming is growing even closer with the ever rising stock of the virtual world highlighting an intersection between fantasy and reality.

West Ham United became the first club in the UK to sign a professional video game competitor by employing eSports player last week.

John O'Shea (not that one) is the curator of Pitch to Pixel at the National Football Museum, and he told MM that the gaming will only continue to grow.

“It’s going to get more real than real,” he said.

“The matchup between the two worlds will become closer and closer.

“It’s absolutely mind-blowing how far the gaming world has come.

“I believe it will continue to elevate in terms of realism.”

Professional eSports players compete in tournaments involving a wide-range of different games, such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, with some offering prize pots of millions of pounds.

Fifa tournaments tend to offer less money, with this year's Fifa Interactive World Cup winner Mohamad Al-Bacha of Denmark taking $20,000 (£13,850) at the grand final in New York, after 1.2 million people had entered.

Sean Allen, 24, who was runner up at this year’s 2016 Fifa Interactive World Cup in New York, will represent the Hammers at Fifa video game tournaments.

He has followed in the footsteps of David Bytheway, who was signed by Bundesliga giants Wolfsburg back in January.

David, 22, from Wolverhampton was taken on as one of Wolfsburg’s two official Fifa players and he believes that professional clubs are starting to realise the opportunity Fifa provides commercially.

“It's a new market for them,” he said.

"Right now it's not exactly historic, but in five years' time when we look back at this we'll think, 'wow they really started something here'.”

Gamers will also be given further chance to impress as a new eGames international gaming tournament will make its debut in Rio during this summer's Olympic Games.

The event, launched as part of the London Games Festival, offers medals and national pride rather than cash prizes for the winners.

The competition, backed by the UK government, will be run by the new International eGames Committee (IEGC).

In Olympic years, both summer and winter, the eGames will take place in the host cities – with future tournaments planned for Pyeongchang in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020.

During other years, national qualifiers will be held domestically to produce teams for the next competition.

Competing countries will send mixed-sex squads of professional video gamers, aged over 18, to play in tournaments held in large venues.

This summer's inaugural event will be a two-day pop-up tournament in Brazil ‘to showcase the eGames to the world of competitive gaming and attract further partners’.

With eSports’s reputation and growth continuing to skyrocket, the upcoming first annual eGames has the perfect springboard to be successful.

Football is reaping the rewards of using the video gaming industry as a marketing tool and after West Ham became the first English side to take the plunge, football and the gaming world could be forming a formidable partnership that will elevate both of their statuses.

Image courtesy of Sports Gaming Universe, via YouTube, with thanks.