The premier Dutch soccer league is launching an eSports division that will recognize players as official members of their respective soccer teams.
Beginning on February 6, 2017, Eredivisie will pit eSports teams from each of the 18 clubs against one another in a race toward the “E-Divisie” championship in FIFA 17. While the league’s professional soccer players battle on the green, their quick-fingered counterparts will test their mental reflexes against other official team players on the screen.
Eredivisie calls the eSports league “a unique platform for the Eredivisie and Eredivisie clubs,” whose purpose is “to reach youngsters and increase the involvement of existing fans in their club.” Director Alex Tielbeke said that they have been working toward this official competition in the Netherlands “for some time,” and sees it as “an extension to the existing range of football we offer, in which we can focus even more on young people.”
More interesting is that each team’s chosen player will be considered a true member of their respective club. Along with that prestige, players in the E-Divisie will find themselves the center of a lot of attention. Matches will not only be streamed through Twitch.tv and YouTube, but broadcast on Fox Sports Netherlands as well.
It’s an excellent strategy for attracting young fans, and a very watchable diversion for when a favorite team isn’t actually on the field. It’s also a sign of things to come, with more and more organizations taking an interest in the booming world of virtual competition.
The MLB and Disney have grabbed the rights to stream official League of Legends competitive play, and now ESPN even has a dedicated eSports division. Late last year, the Philadelpha 76ers became the first North American professional sports team to own an eSports team.
It’s interesting to finally see people coming to understand the ways that traditional and digital sports can not merely coexist, but compliment one another to the benefit of both.
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