Belgium's Pro League joins virtual tournaments bandwagon as sport goes online
Belgian soccer's top-tier Pro League has teamed up with telecoms firm Proximus, one of its domestic rights partners, to organise a FIFA esports competition while 2019-20 campaign is suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Proximus Pro League e-Cup will first invite players to register as their preferred Pro League team, before pitting fans against each other every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday until late April.
Various sports have turned to esports and virtual competitions in recent days, due to events and leagues being postponed because of the coronavirus, including Spanish soccer’s LaLiga.
The Pro League e-Cup matches will be played through EA Sports’ popular FIFA20 video game, and players will be given prizes and points as a reward for playing more and more matches.
Proximus, alongside other telecoms firms Telenet and Voo, holds live rights to the Pro League in a deal, worth €80 million ($86 million) per year, which expires at the end of this season.
Last week, the league finalised its new rights agreement, with Eleven Sports, from 2020-21 through to the end of the 2024-25 campaign, worth €103 million per season.
Proximus has a strong connection with Belgian esports, being the title sponsor of the country’s ESL Championship, which comprises League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive competitions.
The telecoms giant is also an official partner of the Belgian eDevils, the Belgian Football Association’s esports team.
Elsewhere, over one million viewers streamed the FIFA20 challenge tournament organised by LaLiga over the weekend.
The competition, in which 19 players from LaLiga competed against each other, was streamed via sites including YouTube, Twitch, LaLiga’s own over-the-top platform, and the league’s various social media channels.
It was also shown live in Spain on Movistar, the pay-TV channel, and in Belgium and Portugal on Eleven Sports.
The highest views from a specific match came during the competition’s final, as Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio beat Leganes’ Aitor Ruibal.
Viewing figures were also high for the virtual Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix over the weekend.
The Esports Charts analytical agency said that the average number of concurrent viewers watching the action - through YouTube, Twitch and Facebook - was 289,000, with a peak across all platforms of 359,000.
The race was also streamed by several drivers on their own social media channels.
The F1 F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, which will run in place of the postponed races, and involve current drivers, is based on the F1 2019 PC video game, developed by Codemasters, and takes place remotely. It currently looks set to run until at least May or June, as all real-life races until mid-June have been postponed or cancelled.