The NFL is launching a new eSports competition in the form of the Madden NFL Club Championship, which will give ordinary fans the opportunity to represent their team of choice.
All 32 NFL teams have joined in the deal which will see a series of online leaderboard competitions – one per team – created for the release of Madden ’18 later this month.
The top place finisher on each leaderboard competition will then get the chance to represent their clubs at a pair of offline competitions organised around the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl.
There’s a prize purse of $403,000 for the event, part of a $1.15 purse for the Madden NFL Championship Series which will feature three ‘majors’, of which the Club Championship is one.
The event represents a partnership between the NFL and Electronic Arts, and is the first time a major sports league has had all of its constituent teams invested in an esports competition.
“Competitive gaming and esports are one of the most exciting ways to engage a larger, younger and digitally savvy NFL audience,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Collaborating with EA to create the Madden NFL Club Championship presents a unique opportunity to capture the excitement of NFL action and the passion of our fans with competition that anyone can participate in.”
NFL chief strategy officer and senior vice president of consumer products Chris Halpin said the development of the Club Championship could lead to greater investment by NFL franchise owners in the esports industry.
“There’s strong interest across ownership in many leagues,” Halpin said.
“There’s going to be a distribution of perspective on esports as an opportunity as a sport. Like the other leagues, we’ve got owners who have multi-sport holdings and are focused on building their esports franchises and there will be others who are moving into it.
“It’s a good launching off point and there’s also a good intersection for the traditional sports through their games and what they’re doing in esports across fans, brands and with owners learning about the market where there’s already significant foundation and presence and applying that model elsewhere to non-sports based esports.”
There’s yet to be confirmation of whether or not 49ers legend Jarryd Hayne will be playable in the game.