Juventus President Andrea Agnelli thinks that Fortnite, League of Legends and esport in general are competitors to Juventus and European football. That's why he proposes the Superliga, a new competition, in response to the esports followed by millions of young people.
"Unless we are progressive, we are protecting a system that no longer exists, a system consisting of home matches that do not interest our children," Agnelli said as president of the European Football Clubs Association (ECA) at Leaders Week in London.
"We need to look at Generation Z and think that our competition in the future will be esports and games like Fortnite. European football will still be a relevant sport in five years, but we also need to think about how things will look in 20 or 30 years."
Agnelli is therefore proposing a Super League, a transformation of the Champions League and the addition of another lower-ranking competition than the Europa League. Through the system, it would be possible for a teams to advance to a higher rank and drop into a lower rank. So the story that the European football elite wants to protect themselves further from the competition and take even more money gets a new twist. The high annual growth of esports indicates that there will also be competition to football soon.
Most experts agree, and the only question that remains is when exactly this will happen. However, changes in the Champions League will not be certain until 2024 as the structure of the competition has been agreed in advance for five years.
Similar concern was expressed in January by Liverpool CEO Peter Moore, who believes that football with a younger audience is losing the battle against Fortnite. Moore has worked at Sega of America and EA Sports and is very knowledgeable about gaming trends. He argues that it's hard to expect young men, millennials and Generation Z to sit 90 minutes in front of the TV for the whole duration of football matches, 'and sees the solution in clubs developing them selfs technologically and be more present in the digital environment.
The Champions League and Euro 2020 have their own esport variants, eFootball PES 2020 and FIFA 20, respectively. An indication is that UEFA also takes esport seriously. Furthermore, most US quarterbacks, the NBA, NFL and NHL have gone through the transition and only the MLB is missing. Recently, it was also announced that every day MLB loses two fans and a one new esport fan is born.
On the other side of the ocean, experts are also bothered by the fact that younger audiences are not interested in long games, such as those in the NFL, during which 10 Fortnite games can be played. They have accepted the fact that their fan base is getting older, and one of the solutions to attracting the younger ones is through gaming and esport, so now they have their own esport competitions in official sports simulations.
Former UFC champion Demetrious Johnson thinks esport is already more popular than mixed combat. Formula 1, cycling, basketball, baseball, tennis and most other sports have understood esports as future competition for the audience and its consumption. Football is no exception. The big football clubs already have their own esport teams.
For years, experts in the sports industry, big companies and clubs have been coming to esports companies. In the coming years, sports companies will hire esports people to implement certain models that have proven successful in that young industry. The problem is that changing the format of the competition seems like just one of the steps.
There are a lot of challenges ahead of the sport if it wants to respond to esports. Let's say the league's esports systems generally end up in the playoffs, so there is no known winner of the competition two months before the championship ends. The content is still free and accessible to almost anyone, anytime, anywhere, without the principle of pay and watch. Players are involved in competitions through a variety of content implemented in the games themselves, can show affiliation in the virtual world, support a team or player by donating or buying a certain digital good, and the entire system is extremely interactive.
Professional gamers are used to online communication, interacting directly with their fans on streaming platforms, since esports companies use social networks and other platforms more adequately than most sports clubs do. And that's just the beginning. To gamers this is natural, and to sport this probably will never be natural.