Redeye interview: Esports and the Premier League

Luckbox ambassador Paul ‘Redeye’ Chaloner is a massive football fan, and we had the chance to catch up with him recently. We talked Premier League clubs, esports pros with sporting histories and much more in today’s interview, so enjoy!

We’ve seen a lot of Premier League clubs invest in esports over the last twelve months, do you see this as an important relationship that can continue to grow, and could it aid UK esports specifically?

I absolutely think it will grow. We’ve got almost 200 sports teams invested in esports, whether that be in FIFA, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, it’s across the board. The predominant one is of course FIFA, because it’s a very easy link for a football club to attract a demographic that they can’t currently entertain. The teams that I speak to on a regular basis through consultancy have one question, and that is ‘How do we attract the under-30s?’, because they’re not coming to the matches anymore.

Their worry, of course, is going forward in ten years' time that’s probably still ok, but that means they’ve probably not got anyone under 40 coming, and 20 years from now, no-one's coming, and that football club dies. So, it’s a concern for the teams, it’s a concern for the leagues as well, so I think we’re going to see more league pop up that are semi-official or even fully-official, for instance La Liga just recently announced they’ll be doing something in esports.

So, football and esports is a logical step forward for you?

It doesn’t take many brain cells to work out that it’s a natural fit for that league to have a virtual version of their league, and I can see us having the same for the Premier League, the EFL, pretty much every league across the world. MLS have already started, France have got some form of system up and running, La Liga’s going to launch, so absolutely, we’ll see more and more come in, and what I hope is they don’t stop at FIFA.

That for me is like the gateway drug to esports, it gives you an in, but once you’re in, let’s show you some of the other cool stuff as well. That’s not to denigrate FIFA - it’s a great game with a great community - but there are bigger games and bigger esports around to get these teams to look at.

We’ve done that with Overwatch League, for instance, where a lot of money has gone in, and we’ve done that through LCS, but right now the best fit for these football teams to engage with this young demographic is to tie in with FIFA.

I think that can only be of a benefit to UK esports too, as we do a lot of console stuff in the UK, rather than PC. We’re good at FIFA, we’ve got a world champion right now, we’re good at F1 esports, we’ve got that world champion right now, we’re pretty good at Call of Duty, all on console. So, I think the more teams that come along and want to invest in esports via a FIFA team, the better, that’s great for the UK esports scene.

A lot of CS players in interviews talk about having played football, or some sport at least, so I guess it’s a logical connection between sport and esports for those that just love to compete.

Absolutely, I mean I played badminton at a high level, I played pool at a national level, in the £100k nationals when I was 18, had one of the best records in the Sussex League, I played non-League football, tier eight or nine it was, so I played lots of different sports at a different level. I think the reason you see so many esports players come from a competitive background is that’s what links them.

It’s not the game as such, it’s more what I said early, it’s the mechanism for competitiveness, and they see that in esports, and that they are actually quite good at it. They’ve got great hand-eye co-ordination, they’ve got great prediction skills, aim, all of those things develop differently to their sporting skills, but the innate competitiveness is exactly the same.

Image courtesy of RedeyeHD