Barrage Esports owner Jeff Simpkins pens an opinion piece for Esports News UK on the challenges that lie ahead for grassroots esports organisations.
I had a conversation with (ENUK editor) Dom the other night and said some things that I didn’t really know I was thinking until I had said them.
He quoted me in an article later that day on something I had said: "I worry that without significant investment, in the next 12 months we will all become irrelevant as more and more sports clubs get involved."
I don’t mind telling you that we at Barrage are currently seeking investment to take the next step in our esports journey.
I suppose however that I hadn’t really considered why I was pursuing this so aggressively until the other night. After making the comments to Dom, I have been thinking about it more and more.
In some cases, sports teams getting involved in esports can work brilliantly, for example where they buy a percentage of an existing organisation to push them to new heights. A great example of this is Dallas Cowboys buying a majority stake in Complexity.
"Sports teams are going to get into esports more and more. There will be plenty of organisations that fall along the way. I don’t plan on Barrage being one of them"
Complexity keep their name, their brand and their management but now they have a much bigger budget and state of the art facilities, which allows them to do more than ever before. This also exposes Complexity and the scene generally to a whole new audience that perhaps hadn’t heard about the wonderful world of esports before.
My worry, however, with organisations like Echo Fox, Ares and the like, is that orgs can appear overnight backed by sports teams or personalties, and suddenly have a bigger budget than anyone else.
This not only potentially increases the salaries or funding that players expect, making it harder for the already existing esports organisations, but also raises the gap between ‘professional’ and ‘grassroots’ teams.
I must stress, I have no issues with either of those organisations and I think Rick Fox in particular is a great advocate for esports. My worry is where does it end? Does Manchester United start up an esports team tomorrow with a huge budget and buy some of the best players in every game? Let’s face it, they could afford it if they wanted to. Where does that leave those organisations already in the game?
I have raised my concerns previously about the oversaturation of organisations in the scene, certainly at an amateur level.
"If you aren’t enjoying every minute of running an organisation, if you aren’t really passionate about it, then why are you doing it?"
I’d like to add: if you are going to start an esports organisation tomorrow without a decent budget and at least some experience, then you are too late to the party, so don’t bother!
There are some exceptions to that of course, for those willing to really grind it out every day for the next two years and get a little lucky, but generally speaking, you’re too late.
There are a lot of talented people in the UK scene in particular who are working in organisations with no funding, little following and a 'sponsorship' from an energy drink company or similar affiliate-based schemes.
I believe that some of these esports organisations need to merge together to create something larger, therefore decreasing the number of teams, increasing budgets and making it easier for fans to back one team in particular.
Sports teams are going to get into esports more and more. It’s going to happen. It's already happening. There will be plenty of organisations that fall along the way. I don’t plan on Barrage being one of them, and I hope for some of you that perhaps this is a wake-up call - you need to start working harder or move on.
If you aren’t enjoying every minute of running an organisation, if you aren’t really passionate about it, and if you aren't loving it, then maybe now's the time to think: why are you doing it?