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The Future of Sports

2nd June 2016

Sport has always been and will continue to be a big part of society. Whether it’s as a hobby or something more serious, whether you’re a fan or not, there’s just no escaping sport! Take the Premier League, it has an estimated worldwide following of 1.5 billion fans. That’s roughly a fifth of the world and that’s just one league in one sport! Let alone all the other sports and countries! Sport is accessible by everyone, generally speaking no matter what language you speak everyone understands the rule of the sport they’re playing! It literally is a language of its own!

Although today it’s a different kind of “sport” I’m focusing on. In fact when we hear the word sport we naturally begin to think of things like; football, rugby, athletics, swimming and so forth. For some people horse riding may be on the list and others bowls. Everyone has an opinion on sport, be it enthusiastic or not! However I’m sure one of the last thing many of us think about when sports come to mind is Video Games, but Video Games are in fact the fastest growing sport globally right now.

“eSports” short for “Electronic-Sports” is more or less what it sounds like. Sports facilitated by Electronic Systems. In short and honest terms its Competitive Video games. But don’t let that take away from the respectability though. This isn’t teenagers sat in their bedrooms playing too many hours a day. Most of these games are team based games involving crazy amounts of strategy and skill played by people who have dedicated themselves to a career in it. And just like any other sport it’s broadcasted live to viewers and even hosted in stadiums the same size as some of the largest football ones attracting fans from all over the world. But for me the great thing about eSports is anyone can watch and anyone can try the game for themselves.

eSports is becoming such a big thing that Turner (the American TV company) are hosting a televised league. They’re so confident in eSports becoming a regular activity in society that they predict that 52 million people will watch the league. Split into two 10 week seasons with a prize pool of 1.2 million for each season this is no joke! Prize money in eSports is actually somewhat crazy. Last year the “Dota 2 International” (premier tournament for the game Dota 2) had a prize pool of $18 million. This meant first Place taking home $6 million between the five of them. That’s one tournament out of 100+ hosted across the year. A whopping $1million each not including salaries and sponsorships. For a couple of days work.

Although it’s not a couple of days work. Yes the tournament might have span the length of the weekend but the effort put in leading up to that weekend isn’t measurable. It’s hours upon hours sat practicing, reviewing, improving and so forth. What has to be taken into consideration, is that these players will have given up everything the same way that professional athletes do. For them this is their career and passion. It’s their full time job and always was. It can take years and years of practicing and developing before even beginning a career as a professional gamer and that’s only the start. Then you need to work your way up and impress!

eSports bridges the gap between spectator sports and playing sports yourself. It’s far easier to relate to the game and develop a deeper understanding. Anyone can play too (age limits apply). These games can be played for fun and that’s the brilliant thing. The same way you can have a kick about at the park, and be a huge football fan following a team. You can enjoy these games in the same way with the teams having similar followings to that of other sports. The players have personalities and the games have stories (well some of them!) eSports just feels a lot more personal than traditional sports. In my opinion anyway!

Will eSports one day ultimately replace traditional sports? Will it continue to rival them and grow exponentially as it has been? Or is it potentially a fad? With a projected 350 million fans globally and a market size of $1 Billion by 2017, only time will tell. But eSports shows no sign of going anywhere right now. So ask yourself; what is the future of sports?! For me it’s looking electrical!

Matt Smethurst Published by Matt Smethurst 2nd June 2016