The Danish soccer club F.C. Copenhagen is the latest professional sports team to push into esports, partnering with an entertainment company to establish an esports unit that has signed the members of a top Counter-Strike team.
The players formerly with Team Dignitas have inked a two-year contract with the new organization, called North. Its Counter-Strike team will begin competition at the ELeague Major tournament in Atlanta on Jan. 27.
Dignitas was bought by the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA in September. Dignitas released its Danish members from their contracts at the end of 2016. It is well known for its success in League of Legends; in three seasons of Counter-Strike competition, Dignitas won $875,000.
F.C. Copenhagen is currently in first place in Denmark's Superliga by 11 points. Founded in 1992, it is an 11-time Danish Football champion and has reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League four times. It is the first Danish club to do so.
The Lions are partnering with the Nordic entertainment company Nordisk Film to start up the North esports venture. "We are two leading companies within entertainment and sports, venturing into esport at the very highest level," Anders Hørsholt, the chief executive of F.C. Copenhagen, said in a statement. "We see great potential and have high ambitions with North that will be among the world's strongest from day one."
Nordisk Film is based in Copenhagen and, at 110 years old, is the world's oldest continually operating film studio. It is also the distributor for PlayStation in Nordic and Baltic countries.
The players joining North are Mathias ”MSL” Lauridsen, Kristian ”k0nfig” Wienecke, Ruben ”RUBINO” Villarroel, René ”cajunb” Borg, and Emil ”Magiskb0Y” Reif. Lauridsen, Wienecke and Villarroel had been with Dignitas since 2015, the other three since the summer of 2016.
F.C. Copenhagen is the latest in a string of mainstream clubs and sports figures to get involved with esports. In addition to the 76ers buying Dignitas, Rick Fox, the former Los Angeles Laker, bought a League of Legends team at the end of 2015.
A consortium involving NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and two NBA club owners, Ted Leonsis and Peter Guber, bought Team Liquid in September. And European football clubs FC Schalke 04, FC Valencia and Besiktas have also acquired esports teams over the past two years.