The childhood game of tag is poised to become the latest “it” factor in professional sports.
The league is called World Chase Tag (WCT) and it’s touted by its founders, Christian and Damian Devaux, siblings from the UK, as the first and only global league for professional competitive tag.
“Tag is the one sport that everyone has played and everyone understands the world over,” Christian Devaux said in an interview with Fox News’ Douglas Kennedy. “And when you get elite athletes playing tag on a well-designed quad, it's awesome to watch. And that's why I think that within 10 years, WCT is going to be bigger than the UFC.”
The WCT league was formed in 2011 after the Devaux brothers after they were inspired by a game of tag Christian had played with his son in their backyard. Christian and Damien set out to develop rules and a field of play. That led to the development of what they refer to as “The Quad”—a 12 square meter court with an array of parkour-style obstacles to add a heightened challenge to the chase.
The rules of the game are simple. Two teams of five are pitted against each other in a series of 20-second heats with one member of a particular team playing as an evader who must outlast the member from the opposing team, known as the chaser. A team scores points if the evader can last the full 20 seconds without getting tagged by the chaser.
Many of the professional athletes who compete in the WCT come from the world of Parkour, in which everyday urban environments are used as an obstacle course by those who practice it.
One of those athletes is Jake Migliorato of Staten Island, NY. In addition to being one of the top parkour athletes in the country, Jake is also a life-long tag enthusiast.
I was always the one on the playground no matter what we were doing or where we were. I was the one to play,” he says. “No matter how old you are or who you're with or what you're doing it’s just always something fun to do.”
Emerging professional sports have become a hot financial commodity in recent years. ESports leagues for video game players and Drone Racing have seen their audience grow and with it monetary gain. World Chase Tag could very well be on their way; their following has gained a viral-like following with their YouTube channel garnering over 300 million organic views.
Matt Higgins, Co-founder of RSE Ventures was one of the first investors in professional drone racing and says that fan engagement is key when launching a new league.
“The first thing you have to demonstrate when you're trying to launch a sport is that people care. You want fans to engage with them. You want them to be downloading the videos,” he says. “Once you build that audience and you show that people care, then sponsors pay attention. Then media companies start paying attention. But it all begins with fans engaging with the sport.”
Higgins is careful to point out that fan engagement is not the only factor.
“I don't want to bet against tag. People have been playing tag since the beginning of time. But you've got to show more than just people downloading videos. You have to show that they're engaging with it, that they're starting to play in their backyard, that they have athletes that they can follow and care about.”
“[We believed] it would be pretty compelling to see drones flying through the air 90 miles an hour,” Higgins adds. “Once we demonstrated that there was an audience then we started talking to sponsors. This sequence is very important. You have to have the patience, the money to be able to build that audience first before anybody is willing to give you a dollar in sponsorship or media.”
Devaux says that WCT is currently building their base and that they are creating what he refers to as an eco-system where everyone benefits.
For you to make a sport grow around the world you need to have the athletes. You need to have fans. You need to have the gyms and the clubs. You need to have that whole ecosystem operating,” he says. “And to us, that's the main thing that we're trying to create.”
For Migliorato, he just happy to run and leap around the quad.
“No matter how intense the matches get or the competition that we face, it's all just fun. And at the end of the day, we're just playing tag.”