It seems every footballer and his dog has an esports brand nowadays, but we’ve yet to see anything truly meaningful from any of them, writes Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco. Can Gareth Bale change that?
Yesterday Real Madrid and Wales footballer Gareth Bale announced he was getting involved in esports.
The celebrity has set up the esports organisation known as Ellevens Esports (after his well-known number 11 shirt number), along with Jonathan Kark and former football player Larry Cohen. Bale co-owns the side with 38 Entertainment Group.
The announcement was picked up by major news outlets – including the BBC – and various people were DMing me about it, as if I hadn’t seen it, as if they were expecting me to cover it.
I wasn’t planning on covering it, because I have seen so many footballers set up esports teams over the past few years and not do anything meaningful with them. It’s no longer news, in my opinion. So I decided to have a rant instead.
Bale joins a long line of footballers trying to capitalise from the esports boom, including Mesut Özil, Christian Fuchs, Ruud Gullit, Álvaro Arbeloa, Javier Mascherano, Adebayo Akinfenwa, James Rodriguez, Yannick Carrasco, Riyad Mahrez, Mario Lemina and more (with the latter four backing the now-defunct Ares Esports).
I’ve got to be honest. I don’t know a single achievement or noteworthy thing any of them have done for esports since.
Let’s not forget to give a special shoutout to Ryan Bertrand and eChampions that produced a cringeworthy, car-crash TV show on Sky Sports.
Don’t get me wrong. Top footballers getting involved in esports is in theory, very good. They have large amounts of money to pump into the ecosystem, pay player wages and provide opportunities for others in esports, not to mention help promote esports to the mainstream.
But for now I can’t help but feel they are only getting involved to ride the wave of esports and make a quick buck.
I would love for Bale to prove me wrong. The footballer said he’s looking to recruit a team of world-class players for Ellevens across a variety of games. For now he’s got some FIFA players on board, including English player Ethan Higgins, fellow Welshmen Tyler and Brazilian Pedro Resende, and I’d welcome any move into other traditional esports games.
I think that’s been the easy option for previous footballers getting involved in esports – to just hire FIFA gamers. It is good that Bale’s side are playing in the FIFA eClub World Cup this week in Milan, so who knows, perhaps they will become a regular in FIFA esports.
Football clubs like Schalke and PSG have branched into other games like League of Legends and Rocket League and have made a good impact in those areas.
In general I think football clubs have made a good effort in the esports space, but footballers themselves have fallen short so far, in my opinion. Let’s hope that changes.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.