Veröffentlicht am 13.12.21

Sports clubs in eSport

In the beginning, it was the eSport organizations, called “clans” in technical jargon, in which eSport enthusiasts from a wide variety of titles came together to pursue their favorite pastime together. But only a handful of the first clans that were founded towards the end of the 1990s still exist and even these now occasionally cooperate with traditional sports clubs. Like the former clan "Schroet Kommando" which was founded in 1997 and still exists today in the form of SK Gaming GmbH & Co. KG. Because in the field of the soccer simulation FIFA from EA Sports, SK Gaming has been working with the German Bundesliga club 1. FC Köln, which the Fifa players from SK also represented in the Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship, which was played for the first time in 2019, at the 22 of the 36 clubs from the first two national leagues in this country were represented with their FIFA players. SK-Gaming is thus following a similar path as the well-known British eSports organization FNATIC, which has been cooperating with the Italian top club AS Rom since 2017. But before we turn to the current influence of sports clubs in eSport, let's first look back at a time when sports clubs mostly only viewed eSport from a distance.

The pioneers in Germany

When you talk about sports clubs that are active in eSports in Germany, you should definitely not ignore the two pioneers who took the first step between 2015 and 2016 and decided to found their own eSports department.

VfL Wolfsburg was the fastest and signed the first FIFA professional at the console in May 2015, which was to be followed by FC Schalke 04 in May 2016. Since their entry into eSports, in contrast to the Wolfsburgers, the Schalke team have been active in the MOBA game League of Legends with a team in addition to Fifa and are still something of an exotic sporting club in this country to this day.

The number of these clubs has increased continuously, especially since 2017, which was also due to the fact that the world football association FIFA, in cooperation with EA Sports, launched the Fifa eClub World Cup (FeCWC for short) this year. This is a competition in which the participating Fifa players, who all have to be under contract with a club or an eSports organization, ultimately crown the virtual club world champion. While the same club was able to secure the coveted trophy twice in a row with the Swedish club Bröndby IF in the first two editions of this format, a classic eSports organization succeeded for the first time in 2019 with KING eSports, which, however, met with incomprehension among some clubs.

It only got a little better at the eChampions League, which was played for the first time in 2019, this tournament took place in the run-up to the Champions League Finals between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur and, in contrast to the FeCWC, only players who really participated in one Football club are under contract. However, the fact that a New York City FC player ultimately crowned himself the virtual Champions League winner should have once again caused astonishment on the part of the fans.

The organizers of the national FIFA competitions, which are already being held in some European countries, are often doing a lot better.

Other sports and esports disciplines in clubs

As mentioned briefly at the beginning, FC Schalke 04, which is represented at the highest level in Pro Evolution and even in League of Legends in addition to some FIFA professionals, is something of an exotic one in this country. Otherwise, the well-known clubs have so far largely remained loyal to their respective core disciplines, which does not necessarily have to be called Fifa. For example, FC Bayern Munich does not yet have a FIFA department and, like Borussia Dortmund, was not one of the 22 teams that competed in the first season of the VBL Club Championship, but instead goes hunting on the virtual basketball hoop on points.

And there the “Bayern Ballers” are the measure of all things in this country, where unfortunately there is no national NBA2K league yet. In contrast, one is already a big step further in the United States, because there is currently the second season of the NBA2K League, in which 21 NBA teams are represented with their own team, which here consists of 5 players. And with the Charlotte Hornets team, another access for 2020 has already been confirmed. But before that, the first thing in the current season is to find out which team will succeed the New York Knicks, who won the championship in the first season played out. However, this could also be due to the travel strains of the other teams, who have to fly to New York every weekend to play the games on the respective match day. Because in New York is the headquarters of the league, from which the matches are broadcast live on the Internet and recorded.

In order to prevent such problems, such as unbalanced travel stress, in the long term, the Overwatch League (OWL for short) is a league in which a more classic eSport title is played to ensure fairer conditions. But with the OWL, a league organized by Blizzard Entertainment, the development studio behind World of Warcraft and Starcraft, everything is a little bigger anyway. The OWL franchises, which are divided into 2 divisions, are largely the teams of well-known eSports organizations such as Cloud9, OpTic Gaming or Team Envy, which take part in the OWL under different names. In addition to paying a participation fee of US $ 20 million, they also undertake to pay their players a minimum base salary of US $ 50,000 per year. And also the creation of your own eSport arena is one of the prerequisites for being able to apply for a place in the OWL. For example, Blizzard would like to enable home and away games in the OWL in the future and thus ensure more equal opportunities among the teams involved. A model that perhaps the organizers of the NBA2K League could also think about in the future.

However, apart from a few exceptions, such as FC Schalke 04 in League of Legends or FC Copenhagen and FC Santos, which are active in the tactical shooter Counter-Strike, the hype about the classic disciplines has so far still remained not reached. This may also be due to the fact that with Paris St. Germain in 2017 an extremely well-known club ended its involvement in League of Legends again. But the top French club is, in addition to FIFA, also successfully active in the Rocket League and the MOBA game DotA 2, where they came second in the eighth edition of "The International" in 2018.


If the German Football Association has its way, then at least eFootball is on the way to becoming a recognized sport and there may be a bit of truth in that, because if you look at how many clubs in Germany, Europe and even in North America already have their own FIFA If you have professionals under contract, you notice that only a few well-known names are missing.

For example, FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, both of which have so far not been able to bring themselves to engage in sports simulation. And that, although FC Bayern already has a virtual basketball team with its "Bayern Ballers", although there is not even a regular league operation in Germany or a national championship for NBA2K teams. But at least some teams are already active in eSports in this discipline, which one would have expected in League of Legends.

However, the interest of sports clubs in classic eSport titles, such as MOBA or shooter games, has so far left a lot to be desired and so FC Schalke is even the only European club that competes in the highest European League of Legends league Start goes. It looks similar in the MOBA game DotA 2, where with Paris St. Germain only one big club is active. And with the tactical shooter Counter Strike, it almost seems that only clubs from Scandinavia or South America, where the game is extremely popular, dare to set up their own department. In Germany, at least so far, no club has dared to do this.

But the world keeps turning and so cooperations like the Zwischen SK Gaming and 1. FC Köln are likely to contribute a great deal to the understanding of eSport within the clubs, especially in the future also with regard to other disciplines to keep increasing. Ultimately, both sides would definitely benefit from this in their own way and help esports in general to become even more important within society. However, it is by no means helpful to try to differentiate eFootball from eSport, as the German Football Association has done in the past.

After all, all the disciplines in which the clubs, organizations and clans are active are video games and thus, if they are played competitively, eSports!

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