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SBD Global/August 12, 2016/International Football

Premier League Clubs Signing Top Esports Gamers To Widen Fan Base

Sean Allen signed for Premier League side West Ham United in May, was given his own squad number and "has been training for up to 10 hours a day to prepare for the new season," but will "never kick a ball," according to Paul McClean of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Allen is "a professional esports player." He will "represent the club at international competitions." Professional football teams have "rushed to follow in the footsteps of West Ham;" Man City signed 18-year-old Kieran Brown in July, while German side Wolfsburg and Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon have also hired players. A Man City spokesperson said, "This is a huge, growing industry. But it's also a way of connecting with our fans." Clubs "hope that by having their team represented in tournaments, they will benefit from exposure of their brand and will also be able to draw in a new audience." West Ham Exec Communications Dir Tara Warren said, "Digital and tech is a key focus for our football club and as a result we try to keep a close eye on developing digital trends in case there is an opportunity that makes sense for [us]." While esports is often described as “growing,” it is "already a hugely established industry." In '15, the global audience for esports was 230 million, according to Newzoo, an esports research company. It "predicts that number will grow" to 427 million by '19. Revenues are forecast to reach $893M "this year through advertising, ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandising" (FT, 8/11).
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