The King’s League: What was missing in world soccer
By: Alejandro Echeverria
April 24, 2023
Photo Credit: Associated Press
What is the King’s League?
The King’s League was established in 2022 by former FC Barcelona star Gerard Piqué’s organizing body, Kosmos Holding, in collaboration with other notable football/soccer personalities and internet streamers.
It is a seven-a-side soccer league, currently based out of Barcelona, which consists of various rules that are different from traditional ones, with an aim to add entertainment and high-paced action to the sport. This is in response to various traditional soccer fans having complained about the lack of action during 90 minute games, due to the rules often favoring defensive-focused teams with no real incentive to continually look to score. Some of the rules the King’s League has implemented to combat this include having 20 minute halves; a water-polo style rush for the ball at the beginning of the game; unlimited substitutions; a tie-breaker penalty shootout similar to the old MLS style where players have five seconds for a one-on-one against the goalkeeper starting from the center of the field; a draw at the beginning of the game which can grant coaches a "gold card", which allows them to have a "secret weapon", which can range from a penalty kick at any point in the game, the exclusion of an opposing player for 2 minutes, a goal to be worth double for two minutes, a wildcard, and the ability to steal another team’s secret weapon card. All of these rules really differentiate the league from traditional soccer leagues, bringing a new element to the game.
Teams consist of 10 players, plus two additional roster spaces for "guest players", which can range from streamers to former soccer stars. An out-of-the-box example of this which generated lots of excitement was the introduction of "enigma", who was a professional player who completely covered himself up, allowing fans to try and guess who he might be. Part of what makes the league so exciting is the fact that fans are allowed to vote for new rules to be implemented on social media.
As for the league format, each season is divided into two splits, Winter and Summer, with each split having its own regular season stage and subsequent playoffs. During what is called the league stage, 12 teams play 11 match days and face each opposing team once, with the top 8 teams within this stage advancing to the playoffs. These include a single-elimination format, with the final matches having been played in front of more than 92,000 fans at FC Barcelona’s Spotify Camp Nou this past March. Before each season begins, there is a draft held where players are selected to their new teams, and trades can occur between teams as well.
King’s Business Structure & Marketing Effectiveness
With Gerard Pique as the league’s owner and Iker Casillas, former Real Madrid star and Spain captain, as the league’s President, there is a ton of star power within the league’s leadership structure. This has provided credibility towards the league and interest from the older generation, especially with the involvement of various legends of the game such as Sergio Aguero and Ronaldinho.
However, what sets this league apart from a business and marketing standpoint is how much they have tapped into social media. Each match is live streamed on YouTube, Tik Tok, and Twitch every Sunday, with peak viewership at 1.3 million viewers. This, in turn, allows for a much more interactive experience between fans at home and commentators, and helps bring in a younger audience which is accustomed to fast-paced, shorter content.
Going further, the league incorporates popular content creators throughout its programming and marketing efforts, appealing to that younger audience and coming up with creative video content and/or skits to promote itself. For example, one of its presidents, Ibai Llanos (a Spanish internet celebrity and renowned esports caster), is the head of league club Porcinos FC. Llanos has had events which hold worldwide streaming records and has a massive following of more than 9 million on Instagram alone. The King’s League has used his, and similar creators’ followings and leveraged them, in order to grow its overall viewership.
Why is it being considered "a circus" ?
Famously, La Liga President Javier Tebas, an opponent of the King's League, called the league a “circus” when asked about it. He used this in a negative way, but many have seen this as a compliment. With entertainment at the forefront of the league’s purpose, many soccer purists like Tebas might be angry at its success. However, those in charge will continue to tap into the dynamism, constant change, and content creation around the league, as it has seen lots of initial success.
Why should you invest/partner with the King’s League?
As mentioned, the King’s League is only getting started, but it has lots of potential to continue to grow. As more legends of the sport look to get involved, and the league continues to level-up its programming and innovate, this league will be a golden opportunity for sponsors looking to bring in a younger audience to integrate their brands within the product.
With over 92,000 fans attending the finals, there is a clear interest for the league, and it will only continue to grow as programming expands outside of Barcelona. Now is the time to invest for cheaper prices, before the league takes over the soccer landscape!