1. FC Köln is entering the eSports market through a strategic cooperation with SK Gaming, who is one of the most successful gaming organizations in the world. The cooperation will be built around the transfer of know-how from each respective industry. The following points stand in focus:
1. FC Köln Managing Director Alexander Wehrle states: “The game FIFA, which is played by a lot of our fans and players, has a connection to traditional football that is very important for the cooperation. We know that eSports is much more than just sports simulation. It is enjoyed by millions around the world and is professionalizing rapidly. As 1. FC Köln, we do not just want to jump on a bandwagon and copy existing ventures of other football clubs. We would much rather develop the right strategy for the market and are very happy to have found the right partner in SK Gaming, who is a true global player in eSports and at the same time a traditional Cologne-based club.”
SK Gaming Managing Director Alexander Müller states: “eSports has been taken seriously as both a sport and a business, particularly in Germany. Working with 1.FC Köln is very special for us. As a Cologne based company, many of us here at SK Gaming are long standing fans of FC and for me this partnership is just a win-win for everyone involved. We are able to learn from the decades of experience the club gained in traditional sports and in return, we are excited to help FC with our knowledge of 20 years in eSports. I am sure this will be a fruitful coalition right from the start that will have each others fans curios for what’s next.”
Cologne as an eSports hub
Thanks to the yearly Gamescom congress, the headquarters of Turtle Entertainment and EA, a large gaming community and the ESL one Cologne as well as the World Cup Final for Counter-Strike, Cologne is the eSports capital of Germany. The partnership between 1. FC Köln and the defending world champions SK Gaming sees the cooperation of two major teams that represent the city.
The term eSports (electronic sports) refers to the athletic competition between people using computer games. This has lead to the development of professional platforms for various games. There are leagues and championships that are backed by sponsors and are streamed live worldwide with a massive reach and audience. In 2017, the industry generated just under 600 million Euros. The demands on the professional players are also very high. They need to bring along motor and mental skills such as hand-eye coordination, responsiveness and perseverance, as well as spatial orientation, game overview, tactical understanding, and fast and creative thinking. That is why eSports is now recognized as sport in countries like USA, Brazil, China, and France. Classic sports clubs from the US and Europe have recognized this potential and are involved in eSports, including Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, and FC Schalke 04 just to name a few.
SK is a professional gaming team with 20 years of history and more than 60 international titles. Founded in Oberhausen in 1997, SK relocated to Cologne in 2001. Managing Director Alexander Müller is one of the founders of Turtle Entertainment (ESL), who are the biggest event organizers in eSports. SK Gaming is an organization with 15 employees including media, graphics, marketing, sales, analysts, and a mental trainer. Similar to traditional sports, teams have different disciplines with variations in popularity. The most famous and popular branch of SK Gaming is in Counter-Strike. The SK Counter-Strike team is made up of five players, who won back-to-back world championships in 2016 and 2017 in Cologne. SK is also active in FIFA, Hearthstone, and Vainglory.