On the 8th of may, a number of prominent e-sports publications, including Dextero and eSports Observer announced that the Spanish football powerhouse Real Madrid had finally taken its first step into the world of eSports with its own FIFA Online 4 team in China. The announcement read “The club hopes to be able to expand the interaction channel between the club and Chinese fans through the establishment of e-sports teams. The White Legion's Mei Lingge, let us look forward to Real Madrid's success in the field of e-sports! Hala Madrid!”
This surprising statement would place Real Madrid at the forefront of a new, and very real trend by World-Class teams of venturing into the World of professional esports. Since FIFA Online already features Real Madrid’s star player, Cristiano Ronaldo on the cover, a full entry into digital football by the team was the obvious next step.
The news, just 3 days later, that the Real Madrid announcement was false should not be discounted, however. If anything, the fact that so many observers took the fake statement at face value shows just how seriously e-sports franchises are being taken lately.
The foray by professional clubs into their digital counterpart leagues can be observed industry-wide already. After All, even fellow professional FIFA clubs Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais, Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona FC announced official partnerships with esports leagues, lending credence to the commercial viability of professional esports.
Despite a statement by the club’s press team that the Weibo account in which the original (now removed) announcement was made is not official, it seems like physical and digital sports leagues are on an unstoppable collision path. Considering the amount of excitement generated by a fake announcement, Real Madrid would do well to consider making its entry into esports official sooner rather than later.