The AFL is teaming up with the studio behind League of Legends to build an esports stadium in Melbourne
Riot Games and the AFL have big plans for the future of esports in Australia.
If you had any reservations regarding the popularity of esports, the latest move from the Australian Football League ought to convince you that digital competition is quickly becoming just as big as the physical kind.
Starting today, the AFL is teaming up with Riot Games, the studio behind the phenomenally-popular free-to-play game League of Legends. This isn't your typical "we're going to start our own esports team" partnership, either; the AFL is going all-in and committing to building a brand new esports stadium in Melbourne later this year, along with providing general support to grow the esports industry within Australia.
"Esports is one of the most exciting emerging industries to come in and disrupt the traditional sports landscape," said Darren Birch, the General Manager of Growth, Digital and Audience for the AFL. "We’re excited to continue to learn and lead in this space with our new partner, Riot, and to work with our two AFL clubs already in this space, Adelaide Crows and Essendon Bombers, to build out player pathways and opportunities."
In addition to the new venue, the AFL and Riot will kick off a special League of Legends tournament in the coming months that will see Australia take on New Zealand in a showdown familiar to many in the traditional sports space. Dubbed League of Legends: League of Origin, the tournament will see the best players in the Oceanic region temporarily set aside their regular team affiliations and represent their national origin instead.
"We will bring our expertise and insight to the competition," said Birch, "giving all-star players an opportunity to play with different teams, play in a different tournament structure and in a radically different venue environment."
The date and venue for League of Legends: League of Origin have yet to be announced, but the new Melbourne-based esports stadium is planned for construction this November.