For years now, we’ve covered various milestones the esports industry has hit as it has exploded in popularity. Once relegated primarily to a few overseas markets, the past decade has seen an acceleration of the industry hitting the mainstream, from features in sports media on participants, college scholarships for esports, IRL leagues getting in the game, and even the betting markets opening up to esports gambling. While this trend began long before the world’s current predicament, it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered live sports for months, acted as a supercharger for all of this.
All of which contributed to the latest milestone the esports industry has managed to hit, as famed footballer David Beckham’s Guild Esports franchise has announced it plans to get listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Guild Esports, a UK-based owner and developer of esports teams, confirmed plans for an initial public offering in a statement Wednesday. The company said it wants to build a global sports franchise modeled on the English Premier League, NBA and NFL. It will float 40% of its shares next month and hopes to raise £20 million ($ 25.9 million) to recruit new players and invest in the business.
Beckham, a former Manchester United and England footballer, will use his global influence and following to support the Guild Esports brand, the company added. Beckham is also co-owner of Inter Miami CF, a Major League Soccer team in the United States.
The CNN post goes on to note that ad revenue in the industry for 2019 was just under a billion dollars. The point in all of this is that the difference between a beloved hobby and professional sports is the “professional” part. In other words, money. Now that esports has not only emerged as a major force in competition when it comes to ad revenues and eyeballs, but also now a place for potential owners of sporting franchises to invest very real money, the only question is just how popular and dominant esports will grow to become.
Based on the company’s plans, it has some very lofty goals.
The company plans to recruit up to 20 esports players by the end of next year, modeling player training and scouting on the talent academies pioneered by Premier League football teams.
The last milestone is probably one we’re hurtling toward at speed: when the maturity of the esports industry is so accepted that these posts on Techdirt no longer make sense to write.