Two eSports managers got into a bit of a scuffle at Birmingham NEC’s Insomnia57 (i57) gaming festival on the weekend.
Choke Gaming managing director Tom Villiers (pictured left) and Team Senses manager Vince Clarke (pictured right, who previously managed Choke himself) were involved in a physical altercation near the front of the ‘bring your own computer’ (BYOC) area.
Reports vary as to exactly what happened. Tom says that he was walking to find a friend, when he came across Vince, but Vince claims that Tom had been asking around for him in the area.
Vince says he briefly grabbed the front of Tom’s shirt after a few words were exchanged between the pair. However, Tom claims that Vince strangled him, before one of Vince’s colleagues – Smickles – broke the pair up and asked Tom to leave. Witness reports are uneven and usually follow Vince’s or Tom’s side of the story. Smickles says Vince didn’t strangle Tom, but picked him up by the front of his hoodie.
The incident happened at around 6pm on Saturday March 26th.
Staff at Multiplay, which is owned by retailer GAME and hosts several Insomnia gaming events throughout the year, say it was ‘too dark’ to see exactly what happened on CCTV footage. However, they have issued Vince a warning.
While the event is hosted by Multiplay, the security staff at the entrance to the BYOC hall work for Birmingham NEC. It’s understood that NEC staff initially brushed off the incident, prompting Tom to approach Multiplay staff and elevate the matter.
eSports News UK understands the reason for the tussle may have been to do with an alleged ongoing dispute between Vince and his former employer eSports Interactive (Choke Gaming’s parent company). The firm voted Vince Clarke out of directorship earlier this year and Vince set up his own eSports organisation Team Senses shortly afterwards.
It is alleged that Vince may owe some money to eSports Interactive. Confusingly, Vince still owns a 25% share of eSports Interactive but it’s understood the firm is willing to part ways with Choke’s former manager.
Michael Lambert, events operations manager for Insomnia, told eSports News UK: “As soon as I heard about the altercation in the BYOC hall, I had a chat with both parties and NEC security and got to the bottom of everything that happened.
“Essentially, there was Tom’s word against Vince. There were no witnesses. CCTV footage was unfortunately too dark to pick up the incident.
“I’ve given a warning to Vince to make sure that if anything else happens again now, we will raise it to the next level which will be exclusion from the event and a potential ban from future events as well.
“Multiplay’s point of view on this matter is we do have a code of conduct, and violence is obviously against our code of conduct. However, with the circumstances we’ve reached an outcome where all parties are happy.
“I don’t want to kick someone out of the event using one person’s word against another. I’ve made sure that Tom feels safe at the event.
“This is a very rare occurrence at Insomnia. We have a really good group of customers at the event. As with any large-scale gathering, there will be the odd occasion where either violence or misdemeanours happen. As a company we have a very strict policy against this sort of thing. We want to make sure our customers have a safe environment to come and enjoy the show.”
Tom Villiers says he was disappointed this happened at the event.
Multiplay CEO and founder Craig Fletcher (aka Wizzo, who wasn’t aware of the incident) added: “I can count on one hand the number of actual altercations we’ve had in all of the years Insomnia has been running. People don’t bring £2,000 PCs halfway across the country to start a fight. Why would you?
“People who come together through games are not those sorts of people. Actually they tend to be very placid, they tend to come together to share their passion.
“We have lots of security, because health and safety and people’s welfare are our number one responsibility at an event like this. The only issues we tend to find are around alcohol. Normally it’s people maybe drinking a bit too much, they’re in high spirits and are meeting all their friends, they just have a little too much to drink and we end up having to get their friends to take them to bed. That’s about as bad as it gets.
“I think I’ve only had to deal with a proper fight once in the last 22 years of running this event. So I’d love someone who does football matches or rugby matches or any kind of sport to be able to say that over 22 years. I think it’s a very good record.”
- Choke Gaming’s former manager Vince Clarke and current managing director Tom Villiers were involved in a physical altercation at i57 on Saturday
- Tom says he was choked by Vince, but Vince says he grabbed Tom’s shirt
- Staff at Multiplay have issued Vince a warning
- Staff say the CCTV footage was ‘too dark’ and there were no witnesses
- Multiplay founder Craig Fletcher says health and safety and people’s welfare is the firm’s number one responsibility
- There is apparently an ongoing dispute between Vince and Choke’s parent company eSports Interactive
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League of Legends and World of Warcraft player, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association and runs ENUK in his spare time.