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CSL clubs team up with Tencent to form football video game league

Ten CSL are joining forces Chinese technology giant Tencent to form a new competition dedicated to football video gaming, the Chinese E-Sports Football League (CEFL).

The ten sides who have signed up already are Changhcun, Guangzhou R&F, Guizhou Zhicheng, Henan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanghai SIPG, both Tianjin clubs, and Yanbian.

Interestingly, the traditional powerhouses of Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua are unrepresented. It seems that, in e-sports at least, only SIPG rep Shanghai.

Reigning CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande are also missing from the list of founders. However, reports indicate that there is still time for the unrepresented CSL clubs to join the CEFL before the August launch.

E-sports are becoming increasingly popular worldwide – this new form of gaming will be included as a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games and an e-sports version of the NBA is scheduled to begin next year.

European football clubs such as PSG and Schalke are already tapping into this market and the CBA is considering launching an e-sports league. The CSL clubs have beaten them to it though.

Few details have emerged about the CEFL but it seems that each e-sports team will have to include star players from the associated CSL side along with professional gamers and fans of the CSL club. Guangzhou R&F have already started recruiting for their side R&F E-Sports.

Whilst the CEFL will be a money making entity in its own right, the CSL clubs are expecting that it will prove a good way of connecting with their existing fans, as well as helping to attract a newer, younger generation of fan.

Whether the CEFL fans will flock to stadiums across China to watch their CSL heroes play rather than staying at home to watch a live stream of the e-sports version is yet to be seen.

The CEFL’s policies on limiting the use of foreign players, providing opportunities for U23 players and imposing draconian suspensions are also yet to be published. With Tencent’s involvement though, the CEFL is set to be an important step in the development of football in China.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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