Sports star Usain Bolt has taken a stake in Irish-based organisation Wylde, marking the sprinter's entry into the world of esports.
Wylde was founded two years ago by former JP Morgan investment banker Steve Daly and David Cronin, former president and chief executive of the American Ireland Funds, and founding shareholder of Irish technology company Qumas.
It is not known what stake Bolt has in the company, but an angel investment round a few months ago left the two cofounders with 95 per cent of the firm, which was valued at €7.5 million at the time.
The organisation competes in Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant, Rocket League and Fifa events, and has recruited professional players, academy athletes and content creators across 16 countries. It has winning teams in the UK and Ireland, Germany and France.
“Usain coming on board takes Wylde to the next level,” Mr Cronin said. “With his vast competitive experience and Olympic-winning mentality, his guidance will be invaluable as we continue to build professional structures to support the development of our players.”
Bolt is probably the most famous sprinter in track and field athletics. The Jamaican won eight Olympic gold medals across three games, and 11 gold medals in the World Championships. He also set world records at 100m and 200m, which still stand.
Bolt retired from elite sprinting in 2017 and will support Wylde’s mission to identify and support talent. He will act as co-owner and also form an active part of the leadership team.
“Wylde is on a journey to becoming one of the biggest brands in the fastest-growing sport in the world,” Bolt said in a statement.
“In esports, like in track and field, it’s critical to have that competitive, winning mentality. I look forward to working with the Wylde leadership team to help our players to reach their potential, while also taking care of their physical and mental wellbeing.”
The organisation established an academy in 2021 to support gaming talent through community tournaments, professional coaching and holding bootcamps across Europe. Alongside its new co-owner, Wylde plans to host a Jamaican bootcamp later in 2022.
Esports have rapidly grown in popularity in recent years, and are expected to attract a billion viewers worldwide by 2025. They have become increasingly mainstream too; esports athletes will be competing at both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Esports Championship in 2022.
The pandemic has also accelerated the popularity of esports. In April 2020, Sky Sports showed the ePremier League Invitational Tournament, a charity event to raise funds for the NHS that featured players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha competing in Fifa 20.
And Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova took part in a Mario Tennis Aces esports tournament on Facebook Gaming in early May 2020. It was part of the "Stay at Home Slam" on Nintendo Switch, and also featured Justin Bieber, Gigi Hadid, Seal, Steve Aoki and NFL stars Ryan Tannehill and DeAndre Hopkins.