The Major League Rugby 2020 Kicks Off Virtual Drive With Esports Series


Sports has been faced with an unprecedented crisis bringing nearly all events around the world coming to a halt, including Major League Rugby 2020. However, the competition has chosen to switch to a virtual competition better known as esports.

Major League Rugby has been very quick to make the shift towards the digital space, releasing a full schedule, including the MLR Draw, and Rounds One through Four. With all rounds played so far and streamed on Twitch, an Amazon-owned video gaming streaming platform, what is left is the playoffs coming on Tuesday, April 6.

The shift towards online gaming has been embraced by many mainstream leagues and competitions, including F1, NASCAR, FIFA and the NBA, all of which have sought a way to retain viewership and interest in their mainstream events by organizing esports events.

NASCAR, for example, managed to generate 1.3 million viewers, half of the traditional fan base who tune in to watch the main event. While Major Rugby League didn’t report the official numbers of the event, the organization seemed to have fun transferring the game to the digital frontier even temporarily.

On March 20, George Killebrew did the random draw to pit some of the most enthusiastic gamers against one another.

Why the Sudden Shift Towards Online Rugby?

With the novel coronavirus forcing the lockdown of the country and suspension of all events, rugby has been one of the affected sports. To help alleviate the virus spreading, Major League Rugby has decided to host online events and donate any proceedings to the charity.

Furthermore, MLR wants to remain focused on supporting its fans and communities, including those who might be affected by the lack of actual sports competitions, Killebrew said in an official statement.

He continued that the community was best known for its ability to come together in times of uncertainty and face adversity on a united front. All rounds so far have been played from March 22 through April 4, with the playoffs now expected.

A Future for Sports in Esports

A shift towards esports may not necessarily just be palliative in a time of pandemic for sports. Many mainstream competitions have seen the value in investing if not heavily, then at least generously into electronic sports.

The additional channel of engagement with potential fans has proven successful in the cases of football and basketball, although the sheer popularity of the sports themselves could have been determining.

Yet, the NBA 2K League, for example, has shown great efforts in creating a sustainable esports ecosystem that has even made forays into Hong Kong. However, one issue after another has piled on the mainstream sport, forcing the digital events to take precedence.

In the case of Major Rugby League, the esports events still need a lot of work to pick off in full. Most fans prefer to stick with the real thing and in its absence – they just give the events a pass. Yet, MRL might still have a way to make their product more appealing to the younger generations.

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