The 2017/18 Premier League Champions Manchester City F.C. is expanding its esports presence, becoming the first Premier League club to launch a FIFA Online team in China to compete in the FIFA Online Star League (FSL).
The club acquired a team of five players, including Zhang Jun, the FSL’s Most Valuable Player last season, along with Aruya and Liu Chao, who have both excelled in the league’s past two seasons. The remaining two spots on the roster will be filled by Manchester City supporters, who will earn their place by competing in a tournament.
Manchester City officially revealed its new esports team at an exclusive launch event held at the Star Alliance Esports Center in Beijing, with representatives from Manchester City, Tencent, and the Chairman of the Association for Chinese Esports (ACE), Xu Ye, in attendance.
“We are delighted to enter the exciting world of gaming in China, the biggest market in the world for esports. Our new FIFA Online team comes in addition to our dedicated esports players at Manchester City,” said David Tang, Manchester City’s Regional Director of China, in a statement.
The club has previously partnered with the Korean gaming company Nexon in April, one of the biggest steps Manchester City has taken recently in its foray into esports.
“We are looking forward to watching the team play in the FSL as they strive to become Champions and add to the success we have enjoyed on the pitch this season,” added Tang.
Tencent Executive Shulun Gao noted that FIFA Online is incredibly popular across China and expressed his excitement over having an esports team in the country that fans of the club can identify with.
“They were one of the first Premier League clubs to sign a professional esports player and the digital content and fan experiences they have created since then have been unparalleled,” said Gao.
While Manchester City is the first Premier League club to have an esports team in China, it is not the first major football club to do so.
The Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Football Club previously announced a strategic partnership with one of the most successful Dota 2 franchises in China, LGD Gaming, in April. The team has since enjoyed considerable success in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, earning a direct invite to The International 2018 this coming August.
PSG has been involved in the esports industry as far back as September of last year, when it established its own Rocket League team.
Manchester City is just one of the latest traditional sports outfits to have taken the leap into esports, not surprising when considering the industry’s unprecedented growth in recent years. With another household name in sports under its fold, the esports industry can only look forward to even bigger partnerships to come.