The Premier League has a young person problem. Surveys indicate that the average matchday attendee is in their 40s, ticket prices are exorbitant for those not earning a good wage and in the age of on-demand content attention spans are waning.
Engaging the next generation is not a new challenge, polls conducted by ComRes have made the issue clear for a number of years, but addressing it has become more pressing as an existential question forms.
If fewer young people are watching games, what does that mean for the Premier League’s long-term future?
In esports, a rapidly-expanding billion pound industry, they may have found a solution to capturing their attention.
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The second ePremier League season is gathering pace, with all 20 clubs hosting their play-offs throughout February, and it is expected that following last year’s success the audience will grow significantly.
On Thursday 16 players turned up at Stamford Bridge to see who would represent Chelsea in next month’s finals at the Gfinity Arena, a converted cinema screen upstairs in Fulham Broadway, by battling it out in a Champions League style group stage followed by knockout stages in FIFA across both Playstation and Xbox.
Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Ham, who were ahead of the curve by recruiting their own professional gamers well before the ePremier League was launched, will hold their play-offs online while Tottenham Hotspur welcome their qualifiers to north London on February 20.
An estimated 50,000 players across the UK applied to play.
The finals will be broadcast on Sky Sports during next month’s international break but, more importantly, streamed to millions online via YouTube and Twitch. Last season’s viewing figures were astounding, with more than 765,000 hours worth of content from the finals streamed on Twitch alone.
As Garry Cook,…