The growing presence of the UK in esports

13 September 2018

By Andy Fahey, Esports Lead

Irrespective of the political or social landscape of a particular time, the UK has always done exceptionally well at putting on big sporting events. Well organised and well supported, the British people have a great record in getting behind these big occasions, using sport as a release and leveraging the British sporting culture. There has been the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, in 2017 both the UEFA Champions League and the Women’s Cricket World Cup - and now in 2018, esports.

It was no surprise that when a global esports event came to town, the same enthusiasm and vigour was widely observed. The ESL One in Birmingham was such an occasion, where you did not have to be an avid Dota 2 aficionado to see the enthusiasm and passion that came with it from the supporting British public. Selling out the NEC is no mean feat. To sell it out over 3 days is quite something. Great credit goes to the ESL UK team for putting this together at short notice. Likewise I have no doubt that those attending the CS:GO London Major at Wembley Arena will witness the same passion and entertainment level. This time the show being put together by FACEIT.

In each of the above competitions the teams are competing for significant, global standard prize money.

Does this put the UK on the global esports map?

I think the report card reads something like “much improved and on the right track”. Participation and engagement is certainly moving in the right direction and picking up pace: our 2018 UK entertainment and media outlook forecasts year on year growth at 21% over the next 5 years across the UK market.

There is a decent grass roots framework in place driving the growth and engagement level with the excellent LVP/Riot LoL Forge of Champions series, and the schools & colleges programmes being supported by the British Esports Association, always promoting player wellbeing.

This bodes well for the future growth of the UK market and safe development of players aspiring to reach the global standard of some of our European neighbours and the elite Asian and North American teams. We should also strive to rival some of the emerging South American superstars.

Someone to believe in

One of the natural next steps for British esports is to identify the next global superstar player that can compete in major global events for top tier teams - and that player is from the UK. The UK is present in top level Fifa tournaments, but that does not seem enough.

We already boast great team pedigree with global branded teams such as Fnatic, Cloud9, Team Dignitas and London Spitfires - we should welcome this affiliation and look to leverage it best we can. A British player representing one of these teams in major tournaments may go some way to unveiling many more of the closet esports fans in the UK, which will dramatically increase social engagement. A superstar player to get behind and believe in will give the UK esports scene a major boost.

Leveraging the UK’s infrastructure, talent and inherent passion

We are on the way to becoming an influential player. Perhaps not yet a major player, but we are positioning ourselves to become a contender. Major UK broadcasters showcasing live events is a start. It would have a greater impact if they chose top tier events to broadcast. Investment is key. There are some very talented individuals leading UK based teams and organisations, that have a clear strategic growth plan which includes UK gaming houses, developing UK players etc. Competitive university, schools and collegiate competition, although in its infancy, is starting to take shape. With a little help, talent can be nurtured and developed; and teams can be elevated to global levels with UK players at the heart of them. When you combine this with the patriotic fervor for live events and quality competition, it should be an appealing prospect for fans and investors alike.

The future is bright for UK esports and esports fans should be encouraged by what has already happened. With a little nudge in the right direction, the UK could be become a major player on the global esports map. The UK like nothing more than ‘one of their own’ flying the flag globally - and the prospect of them competing in a UK major is something to be excited about.

Andy Fahey | Esports Lead
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