When the FFA announced in February 2018 that the E-League was starting, the first step for football into Esport, the response from fans and prominent comment was less than kind.
Bad timing shouted many. Yet the skill of timing does seem to elude many responsible for governing the strategy and direction of sport.
The FFA have been a lightning rod for harsh backlash, in this case “for putting their energies into promoting a virtual product at a time when the actual product was failing.”
“E Sports should be viewed as an additional entry point into the sport, not something that detracts from the physical product.”
“If you’re an A-League club, suddenly you’ve got an extra way to appeal to sponsors and another mechanism through which to connect with fans. Perhaps even convert them.”
Moving to the present, the community attitude has shifted to acceptance, positivity and even finding the rarest of social media content – comments on Twitter that are not outrage, whinging or complaints 😊
The numbers from the Twitch broadcast have been described by FFA sources as “better than expected and very encouraging” and Fox have been described as pleased with the audience despite programming changes at times.
The online content has been of very high digital quality, with the website being extremely user friendly, great depth of content and highlights.
The social reach is starting to build:
· Twitter = 3,300 Followers
· Twitch = 5,700 Followers
· Facebook = 3,411 Likes
Further evidence of progress and improvement came as the latest season unfolded.
Australia were able to compete in the inaugural FIFA eNations Cup, sharing a group with Portugal, Russia, Denmark and the Netherlands in competing for $100K USD prize money.
Marcus Gomes from Melbourne City FC and Mark Brijeski from Sydney FC, each with solid social followings, became Australia’s first-ever EA Sports FIFA esports representatives to compete at the FIFA eNations Cup in London on April 13 and 14.
They were selected to compete in both individual (1v1) and team (2v2) matches, the new formats revealed by FIFA to extend the appeal and reach.
And then, the piece de resistance. The first female competitor in Liz Varley from the Newcastle Jets. Sadly from the start, and possibly as expected, “she was subjected to criticism from some disgruntled members of the community who felt she was undeserving of the spot.”
Soon after some top shelf performances, including defeating Jamie O’Doherty voted Australian Esports player of the year in 2018, she shared her personal tragedy and motivation to silence the critics.
Following this Varley started receiving positive comments in bucket loads and as well as representing the Jets, she’s proud to be the first female competitor in the E-League – especially given EA Sports FIFA competitions have usually been dominated by male participants.
“It’s really exciting for me,” said Varley.
“There’s not a whole lot of female FIFA players out there that I know of.
“I feel like there’s more and more coming through and getting involved in the Twitch community & YouTube community. I feel like it’s a cool moment for to be able to represent them all.”
So overall, kudos to the FFA on being bold in this initiative with the final words of wisdom from recent past by Hassett.
“Unfortunately, for a raft of reasons, the joy of attending matches has been diminished and the FFA – and the clubs – must look at ways they can get the turnstiles ticking again. Let us be clear: eSports, event attendance and TV ratings exist in different spheres.
So let’s not take out our anger on the digital space, because eSports are here to stay, whether you take part or not. And it’s only going to get bigger and bigger.”
Flip Danson - Flipasaurusrex