LaLiga, F1 launch virtual competitions amid disrupted schedules

Sergio Roberto of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League group F match against Borussia Dortmund at Camp Nou (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Football’s Spanish LaLiga and the Formula 1 motor-racing series have today (Friday) announced plans to fill the gaps left by their respective postponements by launching virtual competitions for fans to enjoy.

LaLiga has teamed up with top-flight title sponsor Santander to join the #LaLigaSantanderChallenge, which has been designed by Spanish video game influencer Ibai Llanos. The challenge invites LaLiga clubs to take part in an online tournament on EA Sports’ Fifa 20 title.

The Spanish football season has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is hoped the challenge will provide fans with a platform to continue enjoying the competition in virtual form.

Llanos launched the challenge on his Twitter account earlier in the week and a number of players have signed up for the initiative. Llanos is streaming matches for free via his Twitch account.

LaLiga announced today that its own official gaming competition, eLaLiga Santander, will help Llanos organise the tournament, set up games, distribute the stream and create graphics that can be used during streams. LVP, the official provider of eLaLiga Santander, will oversee the technical production of the event and look to ensure a prime viewing experience for fans.

The tournament will be contested by 19 LaLiga players and will feature a series of best-of-one ties lasting 18 minutes. The draw for the competition took place yesterday (Thursday) and the first matches get underway later today at 7pm local time, with games also planned for tomorrow and Sunday.

Fans who tune in to watch the streams will be encouraged to donate to UNICEF to support the charity’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19. The challenge will be covered on LaLiga’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts, on the @esportsLaLiga Twitter account, at @eLaLiga on Instagram, on YouTube and Twitch, as well as via LaLigaSportsTV. Movistar Plus will also broadcast the tournament in Spain.

Players that have agreed to take part include Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto (pictured), Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and Atlético Madrid’s Marcos Llorente.

Meanwhile, F1 has launched a new Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, which will feature a range of current drivers. The initiative comes with F1’s 2020 season having been severely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, with its first race of the year not set to take place until June at the earliest.

F1 will run virtual races in place of every postponed grand prix, starting this weekend with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday. Each subsequent race weekend will see the postponed real-world grand prix replaced with a virtual race. The initiative is currently scheduled to run until May and it will be extended further if more real-life races are cancelled or postponed.

This weekend’s virtual race will see current F1 drivers line up on the grid alongside stars that will be announced in due course. Each driver will join the race remotely, with a host broadcast live from the Gfinity Esports Arena (or remotely if required) from 8pm GMT on Sunday.

The F1 2019 PC game will be used for the series and this weekend’s race on the Sakhir track will run for 28 laps. F1 will broadcast the race on its YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels.

F1 said that the settings of the game will be configured to encourage “competitive and entertaining” racing. Cars will run with fixed setups, reduced vehicle damage and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.

F1 will also host online exhibition races during non-race weekends, with more details to be revealed in the coming weeks.

F1’s head of digital business initiatives and esports Julian Tan said: “We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action. With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that’s on show.”