Former England footballer backs start-up behind new competitive teams and coaching academy Samuel Agini David Beckham is backing a new esports business that is aiming to raise £25m as online gaming leagues and players hope to build on the huge interest they have captured during coronavirus lockdowns. The former Manchester United and England football star is building on a business empire that includes a stake in US Major League Soccer club Inter Miami FC, a range of eyewear and the Haig Club whisky brand he launched with Diageo. He is taking a significant minority stake through DB Ventures, his personal investment vehicle, that makes him the company’s second-biggest shareholder. London-based start-up Guild Esports, which will run competitive teams and launch a player academy, is seeking a valuation of approximately £100m following its £25m fundraising, which it says is “well under way”. The business will sign up gamers and use lessons from real-life sport to coach them and compete for prize money in Rocket League, EA Sports’ Fifa, and Fortnite. It will also hope to draw on Mr Beckham’s global appeal to generate sponsorship income. “At Guild we have a vision to set a new standard, supporting these players into the future,” Mr Beckham said in a statement. His investment comes after he and his wife Victoria took full control of Beckham Brand Holdings, the parent of DB Ventures, for $50m last year. Prior to the pandemic, consultancy PwC had forecast that esports revenues would rise from $980m last year to $1.8bn by 2023, a figure that it has since described as “understated” because of the interest garnered during the pandemic. That said, the industry remains small when measured against traditional sports. About half a billion people follow esports, according to analytics firm Newzoo. Esports are particularly popular with people aged under 35, according to PwC, many of whom watch gaming competitions online via streaming platforms such as Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube. “If you look at the video gaming and esports space it’s tending to defy gravity when it comes to growth,” said Carleton Curtis, executive chairman of Guild. He is confident that esports can continue to expand even though traditional sports are struggling to move on from the disruption of the virus. Mr Curtis is a former executive at Activision Blizzard, the company behind the Overwatch league, which is among the most popular esports competitions. The Premier League, which is England’s top football division, and Liberty Media’s Formula One, the elite motor racing series, both turned to esports during the crisis, hosting online competitions. While the Premier League resumed live matches last week, F1 is set to hold the first race of its delayed season in Austria on July 5.