ESports the new frontier for Premier League clubs, says Ruud Gullit

More than seven million players took part in last year's FIFA Interactive World Cup. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2018

ESports the new frontier for Premier League clubs, says Ruud Gullit

LONDON: Dutch football great Ruud Gullit has urged Chelsea and other Premier League clubs to embrace the “new era” by establishing eSports teams to boost their profile and widen their global fanbases.
The former AC Milan star has set up Team Gullit, the first independent FIFA eSports academy, with three players and is set to add more from an original 3,200 applicants as he switches his focus from the pitch to the screen.
Gullit, 55, says West Ham and Manchester City have blazed a trail for their Premier League rivals by launching eSports teams.
“You can reach people, the whole world through this game (FIFA) and that is important for teams like Chelsea,” the former Chelsea player-manager told AFP at a Betting on Football conference at Stamford Bridge.
“In Holland all the Eredivisie teams have an eteam player, there is a competition and it is watched by more people on TV than the Dutch second division. The exposure is unbelievable.”
Gullit, who also has young Dutch Formula One sensation Max Verstappen playing unofficially on his team, said he was bowled over by the seven million players who took part in last year’s FIFA Interactive World Cup.
“Before, they were just playing alone in their bedrooms but now they can do something with it and if they are good enough, get out of their rooms and go to events,” he said.
English player Spencer Ealing, nicknamed “Gorilla,” won last year’s Grand Final in London, pocketing prize money of $200,000.
“I think for these players things will get better, better, better because so many people want to play it,” said Gullit.
“There will be sponsorship for the players, which is great, but they can only get better if they play for the big teams.
“Then you will have somebody to take care of you, you will have to travel and go to tournaments. There is a lot more going on but there is a team around you.”
In a promotional video on the Team Gullit website, the Dutchman says of FIFA: “It’s not a game in itself any more, it’s a professional thing. Football also started all as a game — now it’s become almost life.”
But the Euro 1988-winning captain said he understood those who complain that eSports is not really a sport.
“We think that sports is about you doing something physical,” he said. “Therefore some people think that eSport is not a sport.
“That was the argument about darts but it has become so huge they recognize it as people playing sport.”
Gullit, who confesses he is not as handy with controls as he was on the football pitch, is happy that he lives on in the game, alongside other players from a previous era.
“One of the greatest players to ever play the game goes digital,” trumpets the video on the Team Gullit website.
“When you see kids these days they don’t recognize you from your playing days, they know you from PlayStation,” said Gullit, who won the Ballon D’Or in 1987.
“They say to me ‘we want you but you are very expensive, but nevertheless how do we get you’ and I say ask my girlfriend,” he added, chuckling.
He said education is prioritized for his young players, who can play dozens of games at weekends.
“This is a new era, you have to adapt to it,” said Gullit, whose 16-year-old son Maxim is an avid FIFA player.
“Sometimes you fight it too much. You give an iPad to little kids and they know what to do, we didn’t have that. You adapt to the new generation and what they have.”

Saudia E-Prix returns to Ad Diriyah with double header

Updated 46 min 43 sec ago

Saudia E-Prix returns to Ad Diriyah with double header

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

DUBAI: The Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix is set to bring two races and more global acts in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22 and 23, adding twice the excitement to a historic event held at UNESCO world heritage site, according to the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia (GSA).

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, we’re ready to welcome even more international visitors, and create another unforgettable moment for our people,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the GSA, said in a statement.

Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year with only one race. Music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas performed during the event. It was reportedly attended by some 60,000 people.

“This year sees even more teams enter the Formula E championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new Gen 2 race cars and the exciting Attack Zone innovation. This year will be the first-time drivers will have an additional 10kW of power available when using that Attack Mode, rising from 225kW to 235kW,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF), said.

“Add to that, a double header – two races instead of one - with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports and we are ready to welcome Formula E back,” he added.

The GSA is expecting crowds of up to 100,000 people to attend the E-Prix, given the improvements in the visa processing for tourists.

The 2019 Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix will be the second year of a 10-year partnership between ABB FIA Formula E and the GSA and the SAMF.