Aberdeen FC wants to ride the crest of the e-sports wave – by looking at hosting events in the city.
E-sports, where competitors play computer games against each other in front of a live or TV audience, is becoming rapidly more popular – and the club have announced ambitions to jump on the bandwagon.
Dons bosses hope staging a show at Pittodrie could not only provide a cash windfall but could also attract younger supporters to the club.
The inspiration for the idea came from Aberdeen FC’s new partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) team Atlanta United.
A year ago, Atlanta joined the MLS’s e-sports league called eMLS and signed a player to compete for them – 26-year-old Hugo Hernandez.
Hugo represents Atlanta, competing across the US for prize money and showing off his skills to thousands of fans on his own internet video channel.
Incoming Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said he wants the Dons to look at whether they can follow Atlanta’s lead on e-sports.
Among Mr Cormack’s investment group is Roger Lee.
Mr Cormack said: “Roger is heavily invested in a number of e-sports businesses and so, as we look forward to e-sports, Aberdeen FC commercial director Rob Wicks has now got access to those companies.
“We could potentially be hosting events in Aberdeen as well.”
Mr Cormack told the Evening Express: “We’re at the early stages of evaluating this. I’ve just got Rob in touch with Roger.
“Roger is invested in about five e-sports businesses and the chief executive officers of those companies are now chatting to Rob about what we could now do here. It’s early stages but is something that is on our radar as we look at fan experience.”
Technology consulting firm Activate estimates more than 250 million people tune in to e-sports online, watching players compete at games such as Fifa football, League of Legends and Fortnite.
The company predicts e-sports will surpass basketball and baseball as the second-most-watched sport in the US as of 2021 and, in the UK, Sky Sports regularly screens e-sports events.
Atlanta United president Darren Eales said: “E-sports is certainly growing – it’s been incredible in Atlanta.
“Atlanta is quite a hotbed of e-sports. It has set up the very first e-sports council in the US because it realises this is a growth industry.
“This is what kids will watch and absolutely devour on the internet if their favourite gamer is playing.
“It’s not to say every idea in America transfers to Aberdeen but we can share our knowledge with Aberdeen and might help them.”
Morgan Ashurst of the British E-sports Association welcomed the Dons’ interest.
She said: “E-sports within the UK has expanded massively over the past few years. With Fifa in particular we’ve seen massive football clubs signing e-sport players to represent their clubs.
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“We’ve also had huge events like one at Arena Birmingham where 12 teams battled it out for $200,000 (£233,000) prize money.”
The news was also welcomed by Ian Ford, co-owner at Engage Gaming e-sports club on North Silver Street, Aberdeen.
He said: “It would good for the city. It’s important that people remember e-sports are genuine sports. Prize money can be into millions of pounds and players spend up to 12 hours a day training by playing a game as their full-time job.
“Hosting events at Pittodrie would complement what we do.”