SBD/August 21, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL, EA Partner On "Madden NFL 18" Tourney; League Making Big Commitment To Esports

The NFL is "partnering with EA Sports to create a nationwide 'Madden NFL 18' tournament involving all 32 teams, and the NFL says a bigger commitment to an esports league is coming," according to Fisher & Fischer of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The newly formed Madden NFL Club Championship will "begin with local tournaments in each NFL market to determine which player gets to represent the team in the championship rounds." Each team will "organize and market their own tournaments, which may be hosted at NFL stadiums and other team facilities." The championship-round events will be "held at the Pro Bowl in Orlando and Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis." The effort "builds upon two other, smaller tournaments that EA Sports operates around its 'Madden NFL' franchise out of its Competitive Gaming Division, formed nearly two years ago." The NFL-EA Sports alliance "does not involve the formation of a new league, team franchises or some type of equity transaction." However, NFL execs said that the creation of the Madden NFL Club Championship is an "initial step toward a much more expansive presence in esports." Financial terms for the creation of the Madden NFL Club Championship were not disclosed, but EA Sports and the NFL "branded it a multimillion-dollar initiative." Media distribution is "still being finalized, though each of the 32 local tournaments will be "streamed on NFL and EA Sports digital platforms, including ones EA Sports operates in partnership with YouTube and Twitch." There also will be "coverage of the final-round competitions" on NFL Network (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/21 issue).

FOOTBALL FOR THE PEOPLE: The AP reports the partnership "makes the NFL the first pro sports league in the U.S. to commit all of its teams to a competitive gaming program, and the first esports competition of this scale taking place this year." The Madden NFL Club Championship is "open to any player with an online account." Players will "pick their favorite team, then compete online against that team's other fans" with an "undetermined number of top players advancing out of that round" (AP, 8/21). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sarah Needleman notes the Madden tournament is "open to players at any skill level aged 16 and older." Residents of North America, the U.K. and Germany are "eligible." EA is sidestepping "some costlier parts of setting up a full-fledged pro league." Since the Madden tournament is open to anyone, EA "expects pro gamers will participate." The company said that it could "still create a pro league down the road" (WSJ.com, 8/21).

F1 LAUNCHES ESPORTS SERIES
: ESPN.com's Nate Saunders notes F1 has launched an esports series which will "culminate at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November." F1 has teamed up with games developer Codemasters and esports specialists Gfinity to "create the championship," which will launch in line with the F1 '17 game in September. The two semifinals will be "held at Gfinity Arena in London on October 10 and 11, with 20 drivers -- the number of cars on this year's grid -- progressing to the final" (ESPN.com, 8/21).
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