As the lines between esports and its real-word equivalent blur, West Ham United in the Premier League has officially signed esports star Sean ‘Dragonn’ Allen to join its ranks due to his abilities in the game FIFA 16.
The marketing department of West Ham has clearly been doing its homework in looking into what are likely to be some of the biggest changes in football in the 21st century, one of which is the explosion in popularity of esports.
Just recently, PwC compiled a detailed report into esports – in which gamers compete in competitions for prizes while being watched by a stadium and online audiences – which showed that, by the end of this year, the sector is expected to bring in close to $500m.
With that in mind, London-based West Ham has become the first club in Britain to officially sign a footballing esports star to its ranks.
Allen, or Dragonn as he is known to his fans, is a 24-year-old gamer who recently finished as a runner-up in the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup, a FIFA-run event that pits the best FIFA 16 players against one another.
During the official unveiling of its new signing, who won’t play a minute on the pitch in its new home next season, the Olympic Stadium, Allen was also awarded the squad number of 50.
He will now officially represent West Ham and be kitted out in the Hammers jersey at esports tournaments.
‘We’ve been looking to sign an esports player for a while’
Transitioning quite quickly into the rhetoric of footballers in post-signing interviews, Allen said of his decision to sign with the club: “This is a massive move forward for me. I have been playing competitive FIFA for a very long time and this is the biggest thing ever to happen to me.
“West Ham has had an astonishing season in the Premier League with Europe looking very likely for next season. I will be doing my very best in FIFA tournaments all around the world to emulate their success.”
Meanwhile, the club’s head of digital marketing, Karim Virani, said that the club had been looking at the world of esports for some time.
“Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, so we are delighted to have signed one of the world’s leading players to represent us,” Virani said.
“We’ve been looking to sign an esports player for a while and Sean’s performance in the FIFA Interactive World Cup really impressed us. Sean will spearhead our efforts to becoming a leader in this field.”
West Ham United crest image via chrisdorney/Shutterstock
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