David Bytheway is a trailblazer in the world of FIFA and eSports as a whole. A finalist in the FIWC in 2014. He was the first British FIFA player signed to a professional team when he became a Wolfsburg player. Announcing his retirement at last week’s FIFA eWorld Cup we got the chance to sit down with David to discuss his career, his views on the game and what he can offer in his new role leading the eSports division at Digital Sports Mgmt.
So David, you have officially hung up your controller how does it feel?
It has been a move that I have thought about a lot over the past year as I planned for life after playing, and the timing now feels right. I’m just grateful that I’m able to take up this role with DSM and stick within an industry that I’ve been involved with for so long.
Will you miss playing?
No. I feel too old to be doing it now, which probably sounds funny because I’m only 24 but I’ve been playing since 2009 and all these guys are so young! I’ll miss competing because I’m a competitive person but I am excited about taking the next step in my career.
You were one of the first players signed to a professional contract in FIFA what was that like?
It was a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, and it was hard to explain to family and friends that I had a job playing FIFA for a Bundesliga football team. But luckily they were very supportive.
How long typically are contracts with professional teams?
At the moment contracts are generally one year, maybe two. In the future, we see this increasing. I think at some point we could see transfer fees but that is a while off.
Is there anything you wish you could go back and change?
No, nothing. All my experiences to date have led me to where I am now and landed me this new role of Esports Manager at an exciting agency who are already working well within the industry. I got a complete understanding of what it is like to be a pro player signing with a pro team, plus a lot of contacts and strong relationships within FIFA esports. Couple that with the extensive commercial experience of Digital Sports Mgmt I think we are well placed to advise players in this area. Rob Wadsworth and Tom Henderson the company Directors were at EA SPORTS for a combined 20 years brokering and activating the commercial licensing deals with federations, clubs, and players across the world so we have a great team to add value to FIFA esports. As an agency we have already seen success in the work we have done with our talent, FIFA commentators Brandon and Richard and presenter Chu Boi. I’m looking forward to building on that as we progress with our esports strategy.
Why have the Premier League clubs been so slow to start their own eSports teams compared to the Bundesliga or other European leagues?
It’s a number of reasons really. I think the Premier League clubs were playing a waiting game because there was a less immediate upside to them. I know a lot of teams want to get involved but are not completely sure on what their strategy is just yet. We have seen a couple of Premier League clubs making the first moves because they can see the massive potential of esports. Man City and West Ham already have players and specific esports sponsors, and DSM were involved in brokering one of those deals which is something we are looking to do a lot more of. We definitely think there will be a more to come from Premier League teams in the near future.
You have started a new role at Digital Sports Mgmt what does that entail?
My appointment will mean that the agency has a dedicated focus on our esports strategy. Initially, my priority will be on working closely with players, helping to guide the next generation through their careers to avoid the usual pitfalls that come with an immature market. We will look to manage contract negotiations for players, ensuring they get the best deals possible. Then the wider piece is to provide strategic consultation to brands or football clubs wanting to work with the esports space along with established FIFA teams and event organizers. As well as myself, Tom and Rob, we have recently recruited a Talent and Partnerships Manager, Jen Edwards who joins us from Everton Football Club’s commercial team so as an agency we have full circle experience which we think will be hugely beneficial to anyone we work with in the future.
Where do you see FIFA esport going in the future? Could it be more of a team game?
Well at the moment FUT is the future of competitive FIFA, and personally, I don’t think that will change.
Everything is looking really positive, the prize money has risen substantially and since EA’s esports division got involved and I suspect it will continue to do so. More than 20 million players participated in the FIFA 18 competitive gaming season and it had 80% more average viewers over last season so the sport is in good health and getting bigger and bigger all the time – it’s an exciting time for FIFA esports.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to us David we wish you all the best in the future.
Thanks for having me.