It is fair to say that when eSport started to become a serious phenomenon, many traditional sports eyed it with a certain air of superiority and distaste. Playing video games competitively was fine, and if others wanted to do so, that was up to them. But people blowing each other away in cyberspace surely had nothing to do with “real” sport.
That mindset needed a degree of adjustment when it became clear that eSport could apply to practically any type of game, including those based on traditional sports like football and baseball. Some leagues embraced the idea while others viewed it with even more suspicion. But over recent weeks it has become clear that those sports that can be played virtually have at least been able to keep hitting the headlines. So let’s find out how three of the world’s most popular sports adjusted to life in lockdown.
Formula 1 roadshow moves to cyberspace
F1 is the global pinnacle of motorsport, and the confusion over the opening race of the season did not bode well. However, once it became clear that the cars would have to remain parked up, some of the sport’s leading drivers teamed up with event organizer Gfinity to ensure the show would go on.
Six virtual races have taken place so far, most recently the iconic Monaco Grand Prix, and three more are scheduled to continue the season to the end of June. Real world drivers including Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon have been joined by former drivers and guest stars from other sports.
Cricket unable to react
At the other end of the spectrum, the world of cricket has almost disappeared. It might be a minority sport in the US, but there are more than a billion fans in the Indian subcontinent and the sport is also huge in the UK, Australia and South Africa. It is served by a mighty infrastructure, including sites like www.comeon.com that provide betting hints and tips to the global fanbase.
The biggest problem in getting virtual cricket leagues together has nothing to do with unwillingness. The UK’s governing body is keen to engage with new fans via eSport. The difficulty is infrastructure. Gaming giant EA has not release a new cricket game since 2007.
Charity soccer leagues
Soccer is the number one sport on the planet. In FIFA, it also has the most popular sports video game, and it is one with a thriving eSport scene. However, the major European leagues that were brought to a halt, such as the Premier League and Bundesliga, chose not to go virtual when it came to the official league games.
However, there has still been plenty of soccer action in cyberspace. Several events have taken place over recent weeks that have been streamed on Twitch and involved some big names. The highest-profile event was a five-day tournament that involved all 20 English Premier League teams, each of which was represented by one of their pro players. The event raised money for health charities and was ultimately won by Wolves, represented by Portuguese forward Diogo Jota.