October 3, 2022
The 'hype' of the Kings and Queens Leagues
Accustomed to the usual informal conversations with our students about current sporting events, in recent months we have had to familiarize ourselves with new participants, mostly from the streamer sector, such as Gerard Romero, Mayichi, Spursito, TheGrefg and Rivers, all of them linked to the Kings and Queens Leagues.
Dr Sixte Abadia i Naudí, full professor at Blanquerna-Universitat Ramon Llull
Illustration Josep Rom
The large audiences reached on the Twitch live broadcast channel, the crowd of more than 92,000 attending the final of the first edition of the Kings League, held at the Camp Nou, and the agreement with Mediaset for the free-to-air broadcast of both competitions demonstrate the success of this creation, championed by footballer Gerard Piqué and streamer Ibai Llanos.
This 7-a-side football competition has shaken up the sports industry and has quickly established itself as a leader in our country's entertainment sector, thanks to its innovative nature and the popularity of its promoters and participants. The celebration of the second edition of the men's tournament and the first of the women's, both broadcast in prime time on weekend afternoons, and the foreseeable expansion of coverage to Latin American countries such as Brazil, show the great scalability of this competition and invite us to consider to what extent this hype will lead to changes in conventional sports competitions. Let's consider some possibilities.
One implication may be the progressive incorporation of streamers and electronic sports professionals in the sports industry. Indeed, the motto of Kosmos, Gerard Piqué's business group, is "Creating the Future of Sports and Entertainment", a clear declaration of intent. It is not surprising, therefore, that this competition, which came about as a hybrid of seven-a-side soccer and video games, is led by two exponents of these sectors, Piqué and Llanos. So, we can ask ourselves if, with precedents such as the Kings League or La Velada del Año, it will become increasingly common to incorporate content creators in the organization of sports competitions. Taking into account the interest of the sports sector in targeting young people and the thousands in this age group who follow influencers and streamers, it is very likely that this will be the case.
One implication may be the progressive incorporation of streamers and electronic sports professionals in the sports industry
A second development may be the accentuation of a trend that is increasingly present in European sports competitions. Unlike the Kings and Queens Leagues, originally intended as sports entertainment, traditional sports competitions focused solely on the players and the competition itself. In recent years, however, following models such as the NBA or the NHL, new attractions aimed at entertaining the public have been introduced in European competitions, a trend that could become more pronounced, in the light of this new competitive format. Taken to extremes, it could lead to a contradiction between the original ethos of the fan or follower (with strong and even radical emotional attachments to players and teams) and the more recent conception of a consumer or spectator who is more passive and neutral. Do kiss cams or dance cams make sense when you're rooting for your team to win? Will the elements of identity expressed by T-shirts and flags end up being restricted in favor of the convenient neutrality of a show designed to attract large audiences on a global scale?
A second development may be the accentuation of a trend that is increasingly present in European sports competitions
A third consequence, linked to fan engagement, will be to promote the involvement of fans more energetically. Through the generation of content before, during and after the game (as is the case with the famous After Kings & Queens), and through gamification (inviting fans to influence the dynamics of the game), the Kings and Queens Leagues achieve a strong connection with the audience and increase fan loyalty. This is a goal pursued by the vast majority of sports competitions and events, and is shared by other cultural events. Wristbands with LED lights, coordinated with the music and stage lighting at Coldplay's concerts, also show this tendency to involve the audience, making them co-creators of the show.
A fourth implication refers to the rules applied in the competition. Beyond the "secret weapons" (the cards that condition the game), the Kings and Queens Leagues become a kind of R&D&i laboratory, which allows new formats to be tested, as the competition progresses. The strict regulation of traditional sports competitions thus collides with the 21st century logic of acceleration. Obviously without going as far as the version proposed by Piqué and Llanos, institutions such as sports federations should tend towards greater flexibility and permeability, for example, by promoting new, more innovative and spectacular types of event. 3x3 basketball and mixed athletics, swimming or judo, which were included in the program of the last Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, are good examples.
In short, the Kings and Queens Leagues demonstrate the porous nature of what we consider sport and the constant evolution of the industry. I think, however, that we should avoid moving too far in the direction of sports entertainment that is based, essentially, on the logic of business. Sport, although it is also commoditized, has implications for identity, one's community, education and emancipation that make it an essential "artifact" in times of digitization and dehumanization.