The UK's football Premier League has revealed its official ePremier League (ePL) esports tournament, after months of speculation.
All 20 Premier League football clubs will be taking part in the FIFA competition which gets underway in January 2019, as revealed in this post on the Premier League website.
This means every Premier League club will have some kind of esports operation moving forwards. Teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea have already tweeted about the tournament and are now looking for players to represent them.
Teams will be competing with one another to be crowned the 2018/19 ePL champion.
Gfinity has become the tournament operator of the inaugural ePL tournament.
Registration opens on December 3rd and online qualification begins in January 2019, where clubs will battle it out to determine the top 16 playoff finalists on PS4 and the top 16 on Xbox One.
Then, in February and March, the top 16 players in each format will take part in a half-day tournament to determine the club representative for each platform.
The very first ePL final will take place from March 28th to 29th at the Gfinity Arena in London. It will be broadcast on Sky Sports and Premier League social media channels, and feature a group stage with matches over two legs (on both formats) to find a sole champion.
The ePremier League was first accidentally revealed in an esports announcement from Wolverhampton Wanderers back in August, who later deleted mention of "a number of exciting, upcoming initiatives, including the imminent launch of the ePremier League."
Garry Cook, Gfinity executive chairman, said: “Gfinity is pleased to be appointed tournament operator, bringing its knowledge of esports management and the gaming community to make this competition an unparalleled success. Combining fans’ passion for Esports, EA SPORTS FIFA 19 and the Premier League is hugely exciting."
'Watch it, drink it in - this is UK esports' biggest moment yet'
Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco says the ePL is a huge deal for competitive gaming
The UK has had a fantastic past 24 months when it comes to esports.
We've had our first ever Majors with Dota 2's ESL One Birmingham and the London FaceIT CSGO Major, we've seen universities and colleges offer esports courses and tournaments like DSH take place in schools, and we've seen top UK talent hit the big time including Spencer "Gorilla" Ealing winning the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
The UK has secured victories in the likes of H1Z1, Gwent, Old School RuneScape and F1, Splyce became the first UK CoD team to win major international event on US soil, and the work of Gfinity, ESL, FaceIT and many others continues to expand the scene.
But for me, today's announcement eclipses all of those.
The Premier League is of course an absolute beast, generating billions of pounds each year (the top 20 teams split a pot of £2.42 billion last season), with millions of viewers tuning in around the world.
"Our wealthiest football clubs will now be investing in esports players, in coaches, in managers and more to develop their esports teams and win the ePL. It has the potential to do so much for esports in the UK"
Its size, wealth and influence is staggering. This news today means that our wealthiest football clubs will now be investing in esports players, in coaches, in managers and more to develop their esports teams and win the ePL.
It has the potential to do so much for esports in the UK, providing jobs/careers to esports talent, providing entertainment for viewers and helping to spread the awareness of competitive gaming and show everyone it's a viable activity that's here to stay.
I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again.
So watch it, drink it in!
Let's get behind it, let's be positive about this and show the Premier League why they've made a good move.
Because if this project falls apart after a few years, it could leave the UK esports scene worse off, and that would be a disaster. But I have faith, and if FIFA 19 works, who knows, clubs could branch out into other esports in the future too.
It's certainly exciting times ahead.