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Sports Content Summit: How the FA integrated esports into its digital channels

By 24th March 2020 No Comments

FA senior content innovations manager, Damien Cullen, explained how the governing body has revolutionised its digital output, at the Broadcast Sport Content Summit

The FA has seen its online output grow in popularity and quality in recent years, and this has been in part thanks to its tie in with esports competitions.

Speaking at the Broadcast Sport Content Summit earlier this month, FA senior content innovations manager, Damien Cullen, explained how the organisation has joined the esports revolution.

Last year saw the FA organise the eLions qualifier series, which ended with two competitors playing in the eNations Cup for their nation. The qualification was popular online too, and saw viewers tuning into the FA’s YouTube and other digital channels.

Cullen revealed: “With our first eLions stream, we were told by FIFA in January we had four weeks to prepare a qualification for two esports players, we called them eLions, to represent us. Working with ESL, we developed a way of players being able to register – there were four seeded players and four who came through qualification.”

“They would then compete in an online stream based in the centre of London to be our first eLions. They went on to represent us in the eNations Cup, and we lost on penalties, unsurprisingly.”

Another key aspect of the production was making it fit into their style. Lions Den, the YouTube show that ran behind the scenes content during the England men’s team’s 2018 World Cup campaign, was something that the team looked to base coverage on.

Cullen continued: “Based on the Lions Den live interactive stream, this was a lot more accessible to our audience. It didn’t feel like we were trying to be cool and catch up, it felt very organic and natural on our channels.”

It definitely felt authentic to those involved: “Whether you don’t get esports, or you think it’s not real football – the emotion, the narrative was there. Being in the studio and seeing the response online you could tell that people saw the same kind of things that we associate with sport.”

This year’s competition is currently postponed and without a return date due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the FA still has big plans for the series when it is able to come back.

Cullen continued, speaking before the postponement: “For this year we’re developing our year two of the eLions stream. We did a content day, we invited select media – definitely more of an interest from that, and we’ve got a stream that was taking place at Wembley. We’ve got a new rebuilt Wembley suite which is the VIP area at Wembley – which will be housing the gaming area, the commentary area.”

“We’re bringing in some VIPs in terms of current and ex England men’s and women’s players to be a part of it and connect the eSports audience and our mainstream football audience. We’ve got influencers. We’ve got a three strong presenting team. Two commercial partners are on board.”

“It’s starting to build out now from last year where we were mainly aiming to not look out of place, to somewhere where we’re now trying to aggressively move forward with it. In year three I think we’ll develop potentially even further into having specific eSports channels and a more impactful eSports strategy – once we can make the financials work and show the level of investment and return within the next couple of years.”

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