In September last year, Mags Byrne, Armagh native and one time CEO of Sunderland in the Premier League knew as much about eGaming as most not deeply involved in gaming.
In October she immersed herself in learning more as a possible growth area for her player representation company, First for Players.
After that, she wasted no time.
By the end of November, the 3 Arena had been booked for a major eGaming Final to take place next month.
Between Christmas and the New Year, she secured agreement in principle from Three to be the sponsors of the event and through January she signed up each of the teams in the SSE Airtricity Premier League to act as a channel through which teams could enter.
That is a prodigious amount of work to get through in a short period of time but on Wednesday night as the latest round of games took place at Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium it looked as though it was all going to be worthwhile.
Teams of gamers gathered to go head to head not in Fifa as many might expect but in League of Legends, the worlds biggest online multiplayer game.
There are 80 million active players around the world, 27 million of whom say they play on a daily basis. In comparison, there are 3.2 million registered rugby players all over the world.
Bringing them together to compete as individuals and teams in an arena environment is already among the biggest sporting activities in parts of Asia. It’s the future of how people will compete without weapons and in that sense, it is a close enough relation to any other sport to claim its place alongside them.
The reality is it could very quickly overtake them in a digital-first universe.
Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is down to individual perception, and to be blunt, age.
Many people reared on Championship Hurling, Sunday league soccer or even darts down the pub would look awry at this upstart. The thing is though that their kids or grandkids don’t see it as odd at all.
“I just knew as soon as began to explore it that this was going to be massive,” said Byrne. In fact, it already is though it is taking longer for us in Europe to realise that.
“Bringing it to life in Ireland through our clubs has been a real winner. The clubs gain a financial benefit for supporting us and the players and fans are really bought into the idea of a real team as opposed to the alternative we could have gone down of naming teams ourselves.”
Barcelona has an eGaming team, as does Manchester City, Ajax, Paris St Germain and many more across the top European Leagues.
Shamrock Rovers are on top of the 3 e Stars League with five wins from six games so far and three rounds left to play. Sligo Rovers, Bray Wanderers, St Pats and team Three are locked together on four wins each. The top four teams at the end of the League season will progress to the Grand Final at the 3 Arena on Sunday, May 13th where spectators are rushing to pay €50 or more to watch.
The ultimate Champions will win €20,000 and a trip to Las Vegas. As the manta rung out around Tallaght on Wednesday, this is not a game.
Three is the first major brand to throw their weight behind eGaming in Ireland.
“We look to be a futuristic brand,” said Three Head of Sponsorship, Karl Donnelly.
“Innovation is one of our brand traits and after researching what’s happening globally in this space we thought it was a really good fit.”
“We also have an exclusive agreement with Razer, the specialist gaming smartphone so there was a strong direct business case for getting involved in the gaming community as well.”
“The format of what the team are doing with the league and the big finish coming together really well on social and in the community.”
“We put it into our 3 Plus app as a means for players to get involved and we also ran a staff competition so one of our team is one of our team. That’s given a great buzz internally as well as across our customer base.
Four Star Pizza and Lucozade are on board as well and the finals are likely to be broadcast on Twitch, the gaming broadcast network which will bring it to the attention of millions around the world.
Fellow Sport for Business members Coca-Cola and Red Bull are invested in gaming around the world as are brands like Visa, Amazon and Facebook.
Sportego is one of the key players behind the Global eLeagues including Roma, Wolverhampton Wanderers and more.
This is going to be a winner and hats off to Mags Byrne and Three for bringing it to life on such scale here.
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