Their players may have been stood down during the Covid-19 pandemic but Munster Rugby have stepped into the virtual sporting world by making an entry into esports.
Munster on Tuesday announced it was launching a new partnership that will see Ireland's most successful esports team Phelan Gaming rename as Munster Rugby Gaming for their participation in forthcoming tournaments.
It's a move that will see the province’s brand in one of the fastest-growing sports globally, an online arena that sees major leagues across the world for several different electronic games. Such is the rise of esports that it will become a demonstration sport at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Munster Rugby chief executive Ian Flanagan believes his organisation will be ideally placed to reach a huge audience at home, where there are 700,000 gamers, and overseas with this move, tapping into a team founded in 2016 by Ciarán Walsh that finished third in the 2019 UK and Ireland League of Legends, a competitive iteration of the most popular online game in the world.
“Esports attracts a huge global audience of supporters and players both young and not so young,” Flanagan said.
“In seeking new ways to bring Munster Rugby to a wider audience at home and abroad, we identified the strong performances of Phelan Gaming and were excited to be able to partner with them and feel there is great potential for all involved.
We are delighted to be one of the first rugby clubs in the world to establish a presence in esports.
Phelan Gaming CEO Walsh added: “We have been keen to expand beyond our established esports audience in Ireland and the UK and wanted to partner with a respected club with a passionate supporter base in order to achieve that. We believe that with Munster Rugby, we have found the perfect partner to Stand Up and Fight with, not only in Ireland and the UK, but on a global scale.”
Munster’s Head of Enterprise Enda Lynch explained the strategic thinking behind partnering with Phelan Gaming.
“Munster Rugby constantly explores ways in which we can bring our brand and high-performance knowhow to new opportunities for our supporters and commercial partners,” Lynch said.
“At its peak, esports participants require physical and mental attributes fit for high performing environments.
“We are excited to be bringing both this knowledge and our brand strengths to the partnership with Ciarán and the Munster Rugby Gaming team. Many of our supporters are already active gamers and we look forward to their sharing in Munster Rugby Gaming’s fortunes when the action commences this June.”