Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco offers his opinion after being inspired by changes at Excel Esports (xL).
Earlier this week, one of the co-founders of a well-known esports organisation within the UK – Excel Esports – announced he had moved on to pastures new.
Joel Holmes-Darby (right) has stepped down as MD to become Franchise Lead for the Gfinity Elite Series, which Excel takes part in. Meanwhile, his brother Kieran (left) has filled his previous role, becoming MD of Excel.
But there’s much more to this story than meets the eye.
It’s already old news (yes I know, blame my full-time job and demanding 10-month old child for that!) but the news posts I did see, in my opinion, missed out the real crux of this story.
While Joel is now working full-time for Gfinity, so too is his brother Kieran for xL.
A UK esports organisation set up just three years ago, has a full-time managing director.
So, this is not your average appointment piece – this is proof that grassroots UK esports is not a futile endeavour, despite what some might lead you to believe.
It’s proof that if you want, you really can start something from nothing. It’s proof that hard work does pay off. And it’s proof that a decent, full-time job in esports is a real, achievable destination from the grassroots UK esports scene.
“The past three years have been a rollercoaster journey and one that I am immensely proud to have been a part of. I have learned more from this experience than any other academic or professional venture I have undertaken in life thus far.”
A part-time project in esports can become your full-time job.
For me, this is an important moment in UK esports – not only is it good for the xL boys but it’s good for the rest of the scene. It should inspire other grassroots orgs and their owners to reach the next level. These guys have done it, so why can’t I?
When I first started covering UK esports two years ago, xL were one of the first orgs I took note of. They were playing in the ESL UK & Ireland Premiership week-in week-out, and still are today. In fact, they’re in the final.
But I digress.
Back then they may not have been able to compete with the UK League of Legends’ very best, like undefeated Team Infused (we’ll let them off – after all they had two top-class British players who are now taking part in Worlds 2017), but xL had courage, determination and an air of professionalism about them.
When I watched the panel discussion about esports merchandise at the Esports Insider Forum even last week, Kieran more than deserved to be up there chatting to guys from Fnatic and esports merch businesses.
I could see an ambition in his eyes that dare I say not many UK org owners have. It seemed to me he wasn’t looking at Fnatic from the perspective of perhaps a lesser-tier UK esports org, he was looking at them on an equal level, and that’s something I believe bodes very well for xL going forwards.
Rekkles told me last year that if you give 110% ‘you can get anywhere’, and the xL brothers have proved just that.
Best of luck to them and I look forward to seeing what they achieve in the future.
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 player and WoW RPer, he has written for a range of publications including Games TM, Nintendo Official Magazine, games industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games. He currently works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association.