Coronavirus crisis sees sports stars and teams turn to esports

By 18th March 2020 7 Comments

Football, Formula One, and Nascar are among the sports to have turned to their virtual equivalent

Sporting teams and stars have turned to esports in the absence of their normal events with the coronavirus crisis.

The majority of sport events have been postponed for the foreseeable future in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. Without their normal schedules going ahead, this has left sports teams and players with a gap to fill – and potentially broadcasters too.

One reaction to this has been to turn to esports – with EFL team Leyton Orient surprisingly leading the charge in football. The League Two side put out a call on social media to create an esports competition, and has now found itself organising a 128 team league involving professional sides from around the globe – named #UltimateQuaranteam.

The draw for the event took place on Tuesday evening, and the tournament will be played on FIFA Ultimate Team. Teams involved include the Premier League’s Manchester City, Serie A’s Fiorentina, and Ligue 1’s Olympique Marseille.

Currently it is planned to be covered through the Leyton Orient twitter page, and the club is urging people to donate to provide money for the EFL as they struggle without the income provided by playing matches, it’s chosen charity MIND, and the Covid-19 Solidarity Response fundraiser by the World Health Organisation.

Meanwhile, Formula One drivers have been taking part in esports tournaments after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled last week. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took part in the All-Star Esports Battle, and McClaren’s Lando Norris was among several involved in the Not the Aus GP event – that was organised after the cancellation by Veloce Esports.

Norris’s stream of the Not the Aus GP race on Twitch even broke F1’s record for the most concurrent views on the platform with 70,000 tuning in. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and former F1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez were also involved in the virtual race.

Finally, Nascar is to start its own esports competition during the crisis. A number of drivers from the Nascar Cup Series, Nascar Xfinity Series, Nascar Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, and a group of Nascar dignitaries will take part in the event, which will start on 22 March. It will use the premier motorsports simulation platform, which drivers have used to prepare for races.

Ben Kennedy, Nascar’s vice president of racing development, said: “Our long-time partners at iRacing offer an incredible product, and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”

With esports currently not as effected by the coronavirus as its traditional equivalents, the sector could be looking to take advantage of postponements to its rivals and broadcasters may become interested in the results.