We know leagues like the NBA, NFL and Premier League have been making their initial forays into the eSports world, and now other leagues around the world are following suit. Next up? The Australian Football League. On Tuesday, the Australian Football League’s Commission officially endorsed the league’s bid to make its way into the eSports realm. One of the league’s teams, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, has already expressed interest in purchasing a squad. Chiefs ESports Club has been rumored to have been linked with the Giants.
Per the Sydney Morning Herald, the AFL may now develop an eSports competition. The league said its expertise in “sporting governance, policing integrity issues and running competitions” makes the AFL uniquely qualified to begin operating within the Australian eSports industry.
Back in May, the AFL first showed interest in getting in on the burgeoning eSports industry. Back then, the league said it would use the massive 53,000-seat facility in Melbourne for eSports events. Just a few weeks later, Adelaide Crows became the first AFL side to purchase an eSports team when it acquired Legacy eSports for more than $100,000. Now that the endeavor has the support of the league’s governing body, more and more teams are expected to quickly get in on the action.
The league will have to be careful not to step on the toes of those already established in the growing phenomenon. ESPN got plenty of pushback for their coverage of eSports last year. As a result, the broadcasting giant recently announced it would be scaling back efforts in eSports broadcasting. The AFL is leery of following the same faulty path.
It’s not exactly like the AFL is a pioneer with this move. Far from it, really. Still, the league is confident that it can use its experience in governing the football league as a whole, as guidance regarding how to proceed in this new eSports endeavor. There is certainly no shortage of interest in eSports in that part of the world. Recently, Intel Extreme Masters Sydney drew nearly two million hours of viewership and record attendance numbers from those in the Oceanic area.
ESports only stand to benefit from the AFL’s interest. As investors, teams and the league as a whole can legitimize eSports through sponsorship, funding and the use of live venues. A betting regulator in north Australia, the Northern Territory Racing Commission, recently listed eSports as a declared sporting event. Additionally, McDonald’s sponsored a pair of StarCraft II world championship events in the country. The AFL is jumping in at the right time.
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