My initial thought, no. eSports will never be a replacement or anywhere even close to the thrill of real-life sports. I refuse to believe that gaming sports can ever overtake any athletic sporting activity. But should I be giving them a chance? Recently eSports have been gaining a meteoric rise in attention. So is it time to stop knocking them and start taking them more seriously? The English Premier league is giving eSports a chance. Maybe we can too.

What are esports?

The simplest definition would be to say eSports is competitive gaming at a professional level. Mainly made up of video games eSports can be team based or one on one, played in league or tournament formats.

Huge eSports tournament venue

Extraordinary venue capacity available for eSports tournaments | image by Sam Churchill (CC BY 2.0)

Crazy to think this would have been a reality a few years back. However this is the world we live in now. Gone are the days kids would spend hours down the park after school. The new generation can aim for their dreams without getting out of the comfort of their bed.

The ePremier league.

Still, what does all this have to do with the premier league? A competition where athletes from all over the world with impeccable fitness and ability compete to win won of the most sought-after trophies in sport.

At the start of 2019 the inaugural ePremier League will commence. Fans will have the chance to play online games of FIFA whilst representing premier league clubs. Applications are currently under way and next month you could have the chance to play for your favourite team in the ePL.

Forget about training gruelling hours, running till your legs don’t work 11 months a year to try make it as an elite footballer. Just pick up a controller and you never know Liverpool might try sign you. I can’t get me head round it. Where was this option in my gaming years?

Man city and West Ham sign eplayers

While this may sound like a brand-new phenomenon, Premier league teams have been showing an interest for a couple years now. Current champions Manchester City were the first club to gamble on the opportunity. As they decided to sign e-sports player Kieran Brown in 2016. The aim being for him to play any FIFA tournament around the world as a representative of City. City have since jumped on the ePL trend and signed Shellzz as their representative.

West Ham soon followed signing Sean Allen. In every sense he is a West Ham player. Allen has his own squad number and trains up to 10 hours a day to prepare for the season. Though he will never kick a ball for the hammers, he will be competing to bring pride and prize money home for the team. Mental that is. Never setting foot in the stadium but still playing for a top flight side.

Prize money

But how much is this all worth? Surely earnings can’t be too large just for what is essentially a glorified FIFA tournament with your mates. Wrong. In fact highest competition winner ‘Gorilla’ took home $250,000 for his efforts.

The top players are also actually earning more than the average League Two players salary. Bonkers. More than actual professional footballers. Oh give it a rest. And what’s more is, prize money is only going up from here.

2020 ambition

By 2020 eSports are expected to double it’s audience to 600 million. This is combined with an expected £1bn in global revenue. This isn’t some silly online game now. eSports are messing with the big boys. No more taking the piss and mocking them, this is global. And if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

If any of this hasn’t had your ears perked check out this summary video of the ePL  below.

My Verdict

I can’t say I’m fully on board just yet. But I must respect the commitment of the players to have built it up to this level alone. Mixing with the premier league in any form deserves some praise.

While I myself won’t be watching the ePL this coming year, it has caught my radar. I’ve got no doubt that millions of the younger generation will have their eyes glued to the screens. and good for them.

I just beg that the rise of the ePremier league doesn’t mean the eventual death of the football premier league. For ever kid gaming and wanting to be like Shellzz, please let there be another practicing penalties in the back garden, smashing kitchen windows dreaming to be the next Harry Kane. Please. England needs a world cup in my lifetime.