England footballer Jesse Lingard has acquired the Rainbow Six Siege competitive gaming team Audacity Esports.
The self-confessed gaming fan’s new team is currently competing in the UK and Ireland Nationals under the title of Team JLE, though it will now be rebranded as JLINGZ.
Manchester United forward Lingard told Sky News he had high hopes for the e-sports world: “It’s only going to grow further. It’s the right time to get involved.
“I like to keep my mind busy and sharp outside of football and I like to dive into different things, and this is the perfect opportunity.”
The team specialises in competitive matches in Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – a strategic first-person shooter (FPS), in which teams play in a realistic SWAT environment.
The added tactical element sets it apart from its e-sports competitor Call of Duty, whose gameplay is based on the more traditional FPS experience, though the upcoming Call of Duty Vanguard will feature destructible walls, adding to the tactical dimension of the game.
Asked whether he knew any other sportsmen getting into the competitive gaming scene Lingard told Sky News: “I know various other footballers who are looking to get involved; [Gareth] Bale, [Mesut] Ozil, [Sergio] Aguero.”
Asked whether he could foresee racism becoming a problem in online sports as it is in football, he said: “I think racism is still there to this day and we’ve been trying to make a stand and make a statement to cut it out of all sports.
“If things like racism arise, we’ll deal with it properly. That’s why we take the knee, I’m going to carry on doing that, to support that,” he added.
E-sports is a vast and quickly expanding sector in the gaming industry, supporting more than 1,200 jobs in the UK, offering tens of millions of dollars in prize money, and is expected to generate over $1.5bn (£1bn) in revenues globally by 2023.
But proponents of e-sports may struggle to reach an older generation who aren’t as accustomed to video games, or watching professionals play them.
Asked about how he’ll attract more fans to events and grow the team’s following, Lingard said that his plan was to rely on his social media following to point more traditional sports fans to Six Siege.
He said he’s learning about his own game from the best, being shown the tips and tricks of the trade.
“My team have been there and given me tips about the game, and I’m looking forward to playing it more,” he explained.
However, when he isn’t practising with the pros, he’s dropping into Call of Duty Warzone, Activision’s battle royale game, with fellow non-footballing gamers: “I call my friends outside of football, who are really good, so I tend to stick with them.”
Asked whether his favourite game is FIFA, he responded: “No, because every time I get put into FIFA situations where I play people, I always get beat.”