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AFL enters esports space

The AFL Aussie rules football league has partnered with video game developer Riot Games to launch a new esports tournament in the city of Melbourne later this year.

Melbourne will host a tournament in November that will centre on the League of Legends: League of Origin game. A venue and date will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

The tournament will feature an all-star match, with professional competitors to be drawn from the Oceanic Pro League to represent their home states.

As part of the agreement, an esports studio will be set up in Melbourne as the AFL and Riot Games seek to raise the profile of League of Legends in the region. Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, which the AFL owns, has previously been touted as a host of esports events.

League of Legends features two teams, each consisting of five champions, battling across various battlefields.

Darren Birch, the AFL’s growth, digital and audience manager, said: “Esports is one of the most exciting emerging industries to come in and disrupt the traditional sports landscape. Riot are a respected and credible leader in this space and this event will be a great opportunity to continue on that path.

“We will bring our expertise and insight to the competition, giving all-star players an opportunity to play with different teams, play in a different tournament structure and in a radically different venue environment. Our vision is to progress the game of AFL and continue to help fans share in the experience of footy. Working with Riot is one step towards us learning new ways to connect with fans and enhance the complete digital experience.

“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.”

Riot Games’ head of Oceanic esports, Daniel Ringland, added: “The AFL is a world-class league and leads Australian sport in many key areas. From fan engagement through to player welfare and development, they're the gold standard.

“We aspire to the same levels of excellence for our pro players and fans of League of Legends esports, so a strategic partnership makes absolute sense. The AFL and Riot are culturally aligned, both being firm believers in putting the fan and player experience first. We're excited to be paving the way for esports fans in Oceania.”