List of sports clubs getting into eSports

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Catherine Le Nevez


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Our articles on eSports List of sports clubs embarking on eSports Organizations present in the world of traditional sports are increasingly interested in Esports, a return on the investments that have already taken place in the electronic sports scene.

Without going into the debate of a possible qualification of eSport as a sports discipline, the phenomenon of electronic sport has many similarities with traditional sport: it is a competition between two entities, which is followed by a large public on place but also through modern media and whose marketing potential is particularly high.

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The evolution of the sports market and the eSport solution

The traditional sports market has been growing for several decades, but this growth is uneven: it depends on the region but above all on the discipline. Some have become mature and even tend to lose visibility in favor of new sports, even eSports.

The evolution of the media results froma new way to consume content via streaming, which tends to modify the traditional models of redistribution of sports media coverage.  

Finally, global demographic and economic upheavals (aging of the population in the West and entry of a new rich population from Asia) have also contributed to the emergence of new markets, but also issues that are very difficult to grasp for certain disciplines.

Formula 1 is a perfect example of this situation: the sport is generally followed by a Western population, older than the other major disciplines and whose broadcasting costs are constantly increasing. However, the promotion of this sport on the internet has remained very limited for years. Libery Media (new owner of the rights) has completely changed the vision of F1, notably by signing a partnership with Codemasters and Gfinity to create the F1 eSports Series and attract a younger audience and connected.

This is why eSport is perceived as an Eldorado for many sports organizations seeking both to reach a younger, more globalized audience, but also to diversify their traditional distribution offer.

The right time to get into eSports

The price of the entry ticket to the discipline is one of the reasons that push sports organizations today to invest in eSport. Indeed, although costs tend to escalate rapidly, maintaining a roster within the LCS remains an inexpensive undertaking, compared to the budgets of major sports leagues. It is considered that operating a line-up in the NA LCS for a year is comparable to the budget of a small second division club in European football (between 5 and 7 million dollars).

Thus, an owner of an American sports club will spend only a fraction of the value of his franchise, to acquire an electronic sports training. Thus, when Wes Edens, the co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA), bought the Cloud9 Challenger slot and line-up for 2.5 million dollars at the end of 2016, he paid 200 times less than to obtain his NBA team ( $550 million in 2014).

According to many analysts, the growth of eSports is just beginning, so investing relatively small sums (compared to traditional sports) is a financial risk that many businessmen are able to bear.

However, what has mainly motivated the massive influx of investors is the establishment of structures promoting the development and growth of the teams' activities. The franchise system, often decried in Europe, makes it possible to create a framework that promotes the work of organisations, but also of federations in the long term. This stability is also appreciated by shareholders, who can more easily invest over a period spanning several seasons.

This explains the very strong interest in the NA LCS this year, as well as the many rumors and important movements that have accompanied the Overwatch League. On the other hand, even if the EU LCS and other major eSport titles also receive many investments, their amounts and risk taking are lower, which in the long term could create a divide between the franchised leagues and the others.

To illustrate the extent of the incursion of investors from the sports world into the eSports scene, we present to you a non-exhaustive list of leading organizations in which this link with the world of traditional sports is clearly apparent.


Organizations mainly on LoL

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FlyQuest : Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens bought out the Cloud9 Challenger slot in 2016 for $2.5 million, forming the FlyQuest organization.

EDward Gaming : The organization participating in the LPL received an investment from former NBA star Yao Ming of China.

CLG : Counter Logic Gaming received a significant investment from the fund that owns Madison Square Garden, the legendary arena in New York City, shortly before the closing of the franchise records in the NA LCS.

Clutch Gaming : The Houston Rockets club (NBA) obtained one of the slots to participate in the NA LCS in 2018, thus founding the organization Clutch Gaming.

100 Thieves : The Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) owner also got a slot in the NA LCS, creating a new organization based on 100 Thieves. This will be present in many games.

Golden Guardians : The Golden States Warriors co-owner developed his own esports organization, securing a spot among the NA LCS.

OpTic Gaming : The American organization, mainly known for its participation in the Call of Duty scene, was acquired by the co-owner of the Texas Rangers (MLB), Neil Leibman.

Echo Fox : The organization's founder, Rick Fox, is a former NBA player. In addition, the New York Yankees (MLB) have returned to the capital of the entity (Vision Esports) which owns the majority of shares in Echo Fox. Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham Jr and the St Louis Cardinals (MLB) recently entered the capital of Vision Esports.

Team Liquid : Washington Wizards (NHL) owner Ted Leonsis, Golden States Warriors (NBA) co-owner Peter Guber and NBA legend Magic Johnson have taken control of Team Liquid through an investment made through their aXiomatic fund. Note that since then, the owner of Tampa Bay Lighting (NHL) has also joined the fund.

Team Dignity : In 2016, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming to create a leader in the world of eSports.

Cloud9 : Minor investments from many former athletes like Joe Montana (NFL) but also from Golden State Warriors (NBA) co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya and the WWE wrestling league.

Splyce : Investment by Delaware North, the parent company of the Boston Bruins (NHL) which also owns the TD Garden (stadium used by the Bruins and the Celtics, and venue for the NA LCS summer finals) in European training.

Misfits : In early 2017, Miami Heat (NBA) investment in Misfits Gaming, the NBA team now has the majority stake in the organization.

Fnatic : Investment of 7 million dollars from the Raptor Group which owns the Boston Celtics (NBA) as well as AS Roma (Calcio A).

Immortals : Among the list of investors who created the organization is Steve Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA).

1907 Fenerbahce: The Turkish football club arrived on the League of Legends scene in late 2016 but have already achieved plenty of success, qualifying for the group stage of the 2017 World Championships following their play-in victories. Note that sports clubs Beşiktaş and Galatasaray also tried the LoL adventure before finally leaving the professional scene last year.

Galakticos: The Turkish basketball club bought a line-up in 2016 in order to participate in the Turkish League of Legends (TCL) professional championship.

FC Schalke 04 : The German club bought Elements in May 2016 in order to participate in the EU LCS. After two splits in the Challenger Series, the formation is back among the elite.

G2 Sports: One of the organization's first fundraisers includes André Gomes, a professional player at FC Barcelona.

Unicorns of Love : An economic partnership was signed with Lagardère Sports, a world leader in sports marketing, with the aim of developing the brand's image.

Team EnVyUs : $25 million investment from the Hersh family fund controlled by Kenneth Hersh, an oil and gas tycoon. The latter also has a minor stake in the Texas Rangers (MLB), but also in the European team Fnatic.

Saski Baskonia: The Spanish professional basketball club has integrated an eSports division including a League of Legends team where the Jungler Cinkrof played.

CNB e-Sports Club: The Brazilian club present in the national championship (CBLoL) obtained an investment from Ronaldo, the former striker of the Brazilian national team at the beginning of 2017.

Team Vitality : The French organization has received 2.5 million euros in investment from a group of investors including the president of football club Dijon FCO.

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Overwatch League

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Boston Uprising : The organization was created by Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots (NFL).

New York Excelsior : Sterling Equities, owner of the New York Mets has invested in creating a new organization to participate in the Overwatch League.

LA Gladiators: Stan Kroenke, the owner of many sports clubs (LA Rams in the NFL, Denver Nuggets in the NBA or even Arsenal in the Premier League) has obtained Los Angeles' second slot in the Overwatch League.

LA Valiant: The Overwatch League team of Immortals, a club that owns Steve Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), in its capital.

Philadelphia Fusion : The training is under the control of the sports branch of Comcast, the American operator. The latter notably owns the Philadelphia Flyers, a club playing in the NHL.

San Francisco Shock: Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov owners and founders of NRG Esports are also the main owners of the Sacramento Kings team in the NBA. Many stars and personalities from the sports world have also invested in the organization, including Shaquille O'Neal (NBA) and Marshawn Lynch (NFL).

Houston Outlaws : Investment by the co-owner of the Texas Rangers (MLB) in OpTic Gaming in order to take control of the organization.

Paris Eternal : The French club is controlled by Drew McCourt who also owns Olympique de Marseille (Ligue 1). 

Vancouver Titans : The Canadian club is owned by Aquilini Group, the group that owns the Vancouver Canucks (NHL). 

Guangzhou Charge : The Chinese franchise is controlled by Nanking Group, which also owns the Guangzhou Long Lions, a Chinese basketball league club. 

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North : The Danish organization is under the control of the FC Copenhagen football club, participating in particular in CSGO competitions.

Renegades : The American organization was bought by Jonas Jerebko, a Swedish player who is currently playing in the NBA (Utah Jazz this season).

compLexity Gaming : The majority of the shares of the American organization was bought by John Goff and Jerry Jones, the latter being the owner of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL).

Virtue Pro : Alisher Usmanov, one of the richest people in Russia and shareholder of Arsenal (Premier League) club has invested nearly $100 million in Virtus Pro.

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The FIFA scene in turmoil

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Major League Soccer : The professional football league based in North America has decided to create its own Esport championship with the eMLS. The players will represent the colors of 19 clubs across numerous competitions.

Real Madrid : The Madrid team made its entry into the world through the creation of a team on the Chinese version of FIFA.

Wendell Lira: A former professional soccer player, the Brazilian made a transition to a position of full-time FIFA youtubers and players, competing in international competitions.

Ruud Gullit : The former Dutch Golden Ball has opted for the creation of an academy that bears his name: Team Gullit. The objective is to develop new talents as well as to train them for the life of a professional player.

VfL Wolfsburg : The German football club is one of the precursors of eSport in Europe with a first tournament organized in 2013 in its stadium. The team has been officially represented by players on FIFA since 2015.

HSV Hamburg: The German club are expected to create an Esports division by signing players from FIFA to represent the team on virtual pitches.

West Ham: The London club are the first Premier League club to sign a professional player from FIFA, signing Jamie 'Jamboo' Rigden last year.

Manchester City : Like other football clubs, Manchester City has professional players on FIFA. However, the team would also have tried to obtain a slot within the Overwatch League.

Ajax Football Club : The legendary Amsterdam football club created its eSports division: Ajax eSports in 2016, focusing on FIFA.

FC Cologne : The German club has just signed a partnership with the Esport organization SK Gaming in order to be represented in the virtual Bundesliga league. 

PSV Eindhoven : PSV Eindhoven also entered the world of eSports in 2016, hosting a tournament in their stadium to determine the first FIFA player under contract with the club.

UC Sampdoria: The Italian football team is the first team from Calcio A to create an eSports division.

As Roma : Following a strategic partnership signed with Fnatic, the Italian club opted for a different strategy by using the know-how of the European formation to quickly establish itself on the eSport scene.

Sporting Portugal : Sporting CP was the first Portuguese club to create an eSports division. Although there were rumors about setting up training on LoL, the SCP is currently mainly on FIFA.

Jönköpings Södra IF : At the end of 2016, the Swedish professional football team recruited two players to represent it in FIFA competitions.

Brøndby IF: The Danish formation has been present on FIFA since 2016.

Villarreal CF: The Spanish club has been present on FIFA since 2017.

Bayern Leverkusen : The German professional club Bayern Leverkusen has just made (early December 2017) its debut on the Esport scene by signing its first player to represent the team on FIFA.

Olympique Lyonnais: Unlike other European clubs, Olympique Lyonnais is not content with simply recruiting players to represent its club on FIFA. OL has signed a partnership with the Chinese organization Edward Gaming in order to have a real team on Chinese territory.

LOSC: LOSC eSports saw the light of day recently with the signing of the first members of the FIFA division of the club. However, the Lille management team intends to expand to other games soon, including League of Legends.

AS Monaco : The Ligue 1 club have made a splash on FIFA this year and are keen to be in Europe's top flight for years to come. Additionally, the team signed a partnership with Kinguin, a video game vendor that also has an Esports division.

Hertha BSC : The German club took a rather different approach by signing a partnership with Stark eSports to create a FIFA academy. The objective being to train young talents on the game before they can represent the colors of the club on the virtual grounds.

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The NFL enters eSports with Madden

The famous American football franchise published by EA since 1988 is the first sports league to set up an eSports championship where all the clubs will be present from the first edition. This competition, called the Madden NFL Club Championship, will allow players to sign a contract with an NFL franchise in order to represent it during eSport tournaments. Note that in January 2018, the Disney group obtained the rights to broadcast Madden competitions for the years to come.

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The NBA 2K League is coming in May

The NBA has signed a partnership with Take Two to set up an eSports league based on the NBA 2K franchise. The championship began in May 2018, consisting of 17 NBA clubs in its first season to expand thereafter. For more information, our article on the NBA 2K League.

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Investments in other games

Formula 1 : As mentioned in the introduction, Liberty Media, the owner of the rights to Formula 1, has launched an Esport league (F1 Esports Series) in partnership with Codemasters.

Tony Parker : NBA champion Tony Parker has signed a partnership with the LDLC organization to set up a Sport-study section for esports.  

Georges St-Pierre: The former UFC champion (combat sport) is a partner of Montreal Esports, a Quebec-based organization that notably bought Rogue's slot on Overwatch.

Jeremy Lin : Vici Gaming's Dota 2 division has signed NBA player Jeremy Lin to a deal. He is now the captain of Vici Gaming's new line-up.

Fernando Alonso : The former Formula 1 world champion has invested in eSports through a partnership with G2 Esports and Logitech G. The objective is to participate in racing competitions such as the F1 Esports Series thanks to a new entity: FA Racing G2 Logitech G.

Matcherino: In 2015, professional American football player Russell Okung invested in the start-up Matcherino, which funds eSports tournaments as well as playing games against professional athletes.

Paul Allen: One of the founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen became one of the richest men on the planet. The owner of the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) has also invested in eSports through his Vulcan fund. He notably participated in fundraising on Matcherino and Taunt (a site allowing to bet on the scores of LCS matches).

Saints: The Brazilian football club created its eSports division: Santos e-Sports in 2015. The team has been present on CS:GO, FIFA but also on LoL since 2018. 

Mark Cuban : The owner of the Dallas Mavericks is one of the main investors in Unikrn, an online betting site for eSports competitions.

PSG: The Parisian club has invested in several games including FIFA, League of Legends (now discontinued) and recently Rocket League.

Valencia CF: In 2016 the Spanish team launched into eSport by creating a division made up of several titles including League of Legends (now disbanded), Hearthstone, FIFA, PES and Clash Royale.

rowing club : The Brazilian football club sponsored the Brave e-Sports organization for a year, present on numerous titles including CSGO and League of Legends. However, this alliance ended this year.

Dynamo Moscow : In 2016, the Russian formation signed a partnership with the RoX organization which evolves on League of Legends, Starcraft but also on FIFA.

Rise Nation : In 2014, professional American football player Rodger Saffold (member of the LA Rams in the NFL) bought Rise Nation, a team from Call of Duty. The organization continues to expand with the acquisition of a line-up on CSGO this year.

Gerard Piqué : The FC Barcelona player has created his own eSports company: His first collaboration takes place with Konami, the two entities should create a competition on PES.

Zlatan Imbrahimovic: The Swedish international has meanwhile bet on Challengermode, a Swedish company that organizes eSports tournaments in Europe.

Ricky Lumpkin : Former NFL player, Ricky Lumpkin became in 2016 one of the co-owners of the American organization flipsid3.tactics, present on many FPS.

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