These are uncertain times. Sports fans are surviving on archive footage, sponsors and rightsholders are thinking outside the box and marble races are attracting 36 million views online.

As an industry, we’ve marked esports as ‘one to watch’ for several years but this pandemic has thrust virtual sport into the mainstream with rightsholders and brands embracing new ways to keep fans engaged until live sport returns.

We covered many of the subjects of greatest relevance in our recent Live Webinar on eSports which can be watched back here.

Last Friday night, the traditional Dublin Derby of Bohs and Rovers took place in a most non-traditional setting of EA Sports FIFA20 game with two of the stars of the real world going head to head and Dave McIntyre providing the commentary.

It was organised by Teneo, in support of Pieta and was streamed live on  We caught up yesterday with Teneo Account Director Rob Pearson to find out how the whole idea had come about.

“It was a Teams chat where someone mentioned the marble racing video that ultimately led to the virtual Dublin Derby between Bohs and Rovers,” he told us.

“It has now been viewed over 6,000 times on who opened up their channels for the event. To put that audience into context those virtual spectators would have nearly filled Tallaght Stadium.”

“The shared ambition for the virtual Dublin derby was to put Irish sport back on the agenda, give fans something to get excited about and raise funds for Pieta House.”

“Globally esports is a $1.8 billion dollar industry but it is still in its infancy in Ireland.”

“Through Teneo’s Sport and Sponsorship Index we know that, as of December 2019, one per cent of the adult population were interested in esports with peak popularity of five per cent amongst 18-24-year-olds.”

“By contrast over 40 per cent of all adults are interested in soccer. The strategy as agreed with Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and was to treat the virtual derby as though it were an actual match, targeting the clubs existing fanbase and exposing them to a new world of virtual gaming that still felt new but familiar.”

“Dave McIntyre gave his time willingly and called the action as if it were a real game.  Both players, Arron McEneff and Keith Ward, promoted the game through media interviews and their own social channels and the clubs drive it through their channels.”

“The most satisfying parts of this initiative were the fan’s terrace chants flooding the comments and the more than €2,000 that was raised for Pieta.

“We are seeing an explosion of simulated, virtual and esports events in Ireland which is fantastic and giving the industry a much-needed injection of energy and excitement.”

“Esports won’t replace live sport but they can complement it. Events like the virtual Dublin Derby are giving sports fans exciting new ways to engage with the athletes, teams and clubs they love while exposing them to another world of events and competitions that are here to stay.”

We have given away the result of the game in the image above but just in case you want to dive into a rabbit hole of marble racing at some point, with commentary…
We are fans of Marbley McMarbleface.

Check out our Live Webinar series Events coming up on Sport for Business