Recently, Andrea Agnelli (head of European football clubs association) has spoken of the need for innovations in the way European football competitions are organised.
An interesting aspect of his thinking was that other sports – the typical substitutes that might be expected to impact demand for any given sport – are not the major threat to football. Instead he suggested that video games, such as Fortnite, League of Legends or FIFA soccer, are going to be the competitors vying for the attention of consumers over the next two decades.
I recently listened to David Goldblatt on Matt Cooper speak about related topics which feature in his new book “Football in the 21st Century”. Goldblatt remarks on how the average age of the typical football fan at a stadium in the UK has gotten older. While there may be various reasons for this, is it the case that Fortnite, League of Legends or FIFA soccer (Agnelli’s concerns) are now keeping millennial's and generation Z at home?
The video game industry has grown significantly, and the quality of the product has drastically improved over the last 25 years or so. My earliest memory of the FIFA video game was when Jason McAteer featured on the front cover in Ireland. In 1996 the game competed with Sensible Soccer and International Superstar Soccer (the other good football video games of the era). At the time these video games were complements - mostly young fans who enjoyed playing, watching and attending football usually took an interest in the football video game too.
If Agnelli is correct the ground might be shifting. Video games might just be evolving into a substitute. Perhaps eSports might become an important measure in the demand functions of the future.