IT is one of the most hallowed arenas in world sport. And the scene of one of Andy Murray’s greatest triumphs. But last week the 23,000-capacity behemoth of metal and concrete which is the Arthur Ashe arena at Flushing Meadows was packed to the rafters for a different type of contest altogether.

An audience crammed with children, teenagers and families – precisely the kind of demographic every Scottish football club or sporting institution are so desperate to capture – watched on giant screens as 100 empty-handed players were dropped onto a virtual island and fought to the death to be the last person standing. Not exactly the Hunger Games, but the World Cup of Fortnite, a free-to-play gaming sensation published by Epic Games in 2017 which raked in $2.4bn alone last year.

A remarkable occasion no doubt, with some remarkable prizes. Walking off with the $3m top prize in the solos (singles) competition was a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania called Kyle Giersdorf – aka Bugha – with similarly outlandish avatars like Psalm ($1.8m for second), Epikwhale ($1.2m for third) and Kreo ($1.05m in fourth) also leaving the venue with life-changing cash.

Those who finished between 25th and 100th – all of them, incidentally, male - still got $50,000 apiece for taking part, roughly equivalent to the take-home pay of a first-round loser at the US Open tennis at the same venue at the end of August. Or an entire annual salary for a well-paid Scottish Premier Football League player.

Look, I don’t want to come over like a killjoy or fuddy duddy on this one. I wasn’t averse to tuning into Gamesmaster with Dominik Diamond back in the day. Every now and then I enjoy being soundly thrashed by my 12-year-old son on Fifa, and I certainly developed a serious Football Manager, or back then Championship manager, habit during my student days.

But let’s just say I didn’t entirely disagree with Northwestern University head coach Pat Fitzgerald when he went off on one recently on the subject of how technology is threatening his sport. “Watching young people these days, they live like this [eyes down looking at phone] and not like this [eyes wide eyed and straight ahead],” Fitzgerald said. “How a lot of young fans intake is now through technology, its like you are at a concert and you see everyone with their phone up.”

The point is that the future is here already. And it presents a huge challenge to traditional patterns of both participation and consumption in sport, just as technology has already revolutionised almost every other part of our existence on this planet.

For all the benefits that big data and analytics can have for elite performance, in the first instance technology is mainly another distraction to be overcome: the imperative has never been greater to get out and experience sport first hand, rather than just follow it on the mobile phone in your pocket.

eSports like last week’s Fortnite-fest at Flushing Meadows are coming alright. It is a market which every major sporting club worth its salt is already trying to exploit.

Premier League sides already have contracted players on their rosters, with Liverpool’s Donovan Hunt defeating Man Utd’s Kyle Leese 6-2 to take the inaugural ePremier League title at the Grand Final in London in late March, an event broadcast live on Sky Sports and the league’s digital channels.

Beyond just football, the next step in the normalisation of gaming will come in 2022, when medals will be competed for and handed out for it at the Asian Games in Hangzhou in recognition of “the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.”

Full inclusion onto the Olympic roster isn’t as far-fetched as you might think, in fact it may not be far away at all, with organisers talking openly about how including eSports could attract a new generation of fans to the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028. Anyone unaware of how much the Olympics are chasing the youth vote should consider a list of new sports for Tokyo2020 which includes skateboarding, surfing, climbing and three-on-three basketball.

Like using golf simulators to attract children to golf memberships, the awesome challenge for sports clubs and administrators in this country is to harness technology for them rather than against them. Because I dare say there will be a few cold, rainy nights this winter when the notion of deciding against playing or watching football to stay in your house, surfing social media and playing Fortnite becomes seriously tempting.