It may have slipped under the radar – but Port Vale has an active official eSports team. In January 2018 it was revealed that Port Vale had partnered with Virtual Pro Gaming (VPG), providing a platform for the Valiants to launch their own official eSports team to compete in the FIFA franchise.
VPG is an eSports community based in Delaware, US. The platform was devised to create a “passionate community” focused exclusively on 11v11 eSports. At the time of writing, VPG now has over 450,000 registered players on its community, and it’s already working in tandem with over 100 eSports teams representing professional football clubs throughout Europe and beyond. Outside of the UK, VPG already has official eSports teams participating from Turkey (Galatasaray and Besiktas) and Spain (Deportivo Alaves and Cadiz CF).
The official Port Vale site sought a “full 11-a-side eSports team” that could perform together within the Pro Clubs mode on FIFA. Trials were launched for Vale’s new virtual XI, with the successful trialists securing a place on the roster to take part in weekly matches hosted on the VPG network.
Since the completion of the Port Vale eSports team, it has featured heavily on the VPG network, creating its very own piece of Vale history. Several of its games streamed live on Port Vale’s official YouTube channel. Chris Turner, sales and marketing manager at the time of the team’s formation, said that “eSports is huge in Asia” and that it was only a matter of time before it took hold in Europe. Turner was right in so many ways, with many of the continent’s biggest professional clubs spotting an opportunity to engage with the next generation of potential fans by launching their own official eSports teams. These teams not only compete in FIFA, but across a broad spectrum of competitive video game titles.
The rise of eSports in recent years
To further cement the serious nature of the eSports scene, eSports will have its own Commonwealth Championships this summer as part of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The Commonwealth Esports Championships will be staged across 6th-7th August at the International Convention Centre. The event will be supported and marketed by the British Esports Association, which was established back in 2016 as a non-profit organisation to improve eSports standards and encourage burgeoning eSports talent to flourish.
According to the Commonwealth Esports Championships’ press release a host of “renowned multi-genre global titles” are set to be confirmed, allowing teams throughout the Commonwealth to compete on the biggest mainstream stage thus far. More than half of Brits have started to play online games, according to research from digital board game firm Marmalade Game Studio. Meanwhile one-in-four respondents said that online gaming had a positive impact on their mental health.
In terms of the most popular eSports games, PLAYERUNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) Mobile takes the top spot in terms of tournament prize money, which has hit almost $4m in 2022 so far. That’s followed closely by Dota 2 ($3.125m), Rainbow Six Siege ($3m) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ($2.516m).
The Port Vale FIFA eSports team
The official Port Vale eSports team competes exclusively in the PS4 and PS5 FIFA leagues on PVG. The team is managed by Ste Foster, who assumed the reins as of January 2022. The Port Vale official team competes in League One PS5, according to PVG, which comprises other official eSports teams such as Leyton Orient, Lincoln City and Tranmere Rovers.
This is their inaugural season in League One PS5 and Port Vale find themselves in mid-table, 15th out of 26 after 50 games. Foster has led by example this season as the highest individual points scorer, racking up 104.1 points in his 39 appearances.
If you’re a Port Vale fan and a passionate FIFA gamer, you could have the chance to represent the Valiants virtually. You can keep track of Port Vale’s official eSports team via Facebook. Its Twitter handle is @PVFCeSports, while team manager Ste Foster can be found at @SteFoster18.