By David Owen
July 10 – FIFA is suckling on the teat of its increasingly productive esport cash cow just a little more vigorously, unveiling plans on Friday for an extension of the FIFA eChallenger Series, along with games-maker EA Sports.
The series is being extended to host a day of inter-nation matches between China and South Korea this weekend. This will see two teams from each nation contest online match-ups that are billed as featuring “top football stars, influencers and professional esports players from the two countries”.
The move comes at a time when the emergence of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc with sporting schedules and, hence, the cash flow projections of the vast majority of sports bodies.
The pandemic has prompted FIFA to draw up a revised budget that forecasts 2020 revenues at just $250 million – a little more than half of the $484 million originally projected.
As suggested by insideworldfootball last month, it now looks possible that licensing rights may be the biggest single revenue source for FIFA this year.
Licensing revenue for 2020 was originally forecast at $112 million and, since much of this is thought to be linked to esport, there seems scant reason why it should be much – if at all – reduced.
Surging licensing revenue was already instrumental in helping FIFA out in its previous 2015-18 financial cycle, as it battled to counter the impact on its business of the reputational issues that engulfed it as the Sepp Blatter era drew to a tumultuous close. In 2018 alone, the $185 million contribution to revenue from licensing rights was said to be “206% higher than budgeted”, mainly driven by FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 18.
The new China v South Korea matches are to be streamed live on FIFA.gg.
The first phase of the FIFA eChallenger Series last month saw well-known football stars, influencers and professional esport players from South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and China compete in 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 matches in their respective countries.
Simon Thomas, FIFA’s chief commercial officer, said that the eChallenger Series had “provided many fans across Asia with a dedicated online event to support teams from their respective countries, and follow and engage with stars from football, influencers and professional esports players”.
He went on: “With over 23 million views so far across FIFA and EA Sports channels, this indicates an incredibly strong level of interest in FIFA esports, and we are excited to extend the FIFA eChallenger Series and give more fans across Asia the opportunity to take part.”
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