'There needs to be more collaboration in the UK' – highlights & quotes from ESI London's UK esports panel

uk esports panel esi london 1

ESI London held a panel titled ‘UK esports – it’s coming home?’ last month, and the panel is available in full to watch now. 
Esports News UK was proud to be a media partner for the event, and here are some of our highlights from the discussion.

The panel

  • Ollie Ring, Esports Insider head of media and editor (moderator)
  • Scott Gillingham, Intel UK gaming and esports lead
  • Ben Greenstone, DCMS private secretary
  • Dom Sacco, ENUK editor and British Esports Association comms
  • Martin Wyatt, Gfinity global head of partnerships
  • Kieran Holmes-Darby, exceL Interactive MD

The panel kicked off proceedings answering Ollie’s question around the current state of UK esports.
Kieran from exceL said: “The esports industry kind of went global before it went national, so it’s having to push infrastructure down into the regions, I think that’s why it took a bit of a while to start gaining traction here in the UK, but it’s starting to take off. There’ a wealth of opportunities in tournaments for teams like ours.”
Martin Wyatt commented: “The UK has a very rich esports heritage, there’s history here. Now more people are taking part in bigger tournaments, bigger tournaments attract bigger teams, which attract bigger viewership, then the investment comes. It didn’t happen overnight, growth has occured naturally and in a balanced way. If growth continues in the same way, there’s no reason why this can’t be a global destination.”
Ben from the DCMS added: “The UK has a great history of hosting events, whether it’s esports, music, theatre etc. And James Dean from ESL UK mentioned it earlier, we have the fifth largest gaming consumer market in the world.”

“I think actually in the UK there needs to be much more collaboration between people, whether that’s tournament operators, commercial sponsors, media… everyone needs to collaborate.”
Martin Wyatt, Gfinity

The panel also spoke about the stigma around gaming starting to lift in the UK, as awareness of esports rises and brands and people become more educated around its benefits.
Kieran believes there’s more work to be done here. He said: “I’m still hearing stories of mums getting emails from schools saying: ‘Don’t let your child play Fortnite or they’ll become a bully. It’s ridiculous.
“Some of the work that the British Esports Association and Gfinity in partnership with Digital Schoolhouse is important to show there are career paths here, and around the education. I also think traditional media is starting to understand it better.”
Martin added: “I think one of the things that might be slightly overlooked is when people talk about how growth can occur and we need to get more people playing and competing.
“I think actually in the UK there needs to be much more collaboration between people, whether that’s tournament operators, commercial sponsors, media… everyone needs to collaborate. Because people who play games are at different stages of a journey, you can’t convert them straight into the Gfinity Elite Series or ESL Premiership.”
Ollie also asked the panel about the potential for government control or a body looking after and sanctioning esports in the UK in the future.
Martin believes it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, while recognising a need for some governance and structure, but that once the door is open it can get tricky.
Ben mentioned the Gambling Commission and its work in the esports space, looking after the gambling side of things.

“I would love for the UK to be the most attractive place in the world to set up an esports business or host a tournament.”
Ben Greenstone, DCMS

Ollie also mentioned the need for business advice for a lot of start-up esports orgs in the UK, and joked about the idea of ‘Sacco Esports’ being a possibility (don’t give us ideas Ollie)!
Martin said we need more orgs, because a lot of these start-ups have passion and passion is something you can’t teach. “I would encourage anybody to take the risk and get out there and do it, because why not,” Martin said.
Dom also mentioned that passion will get you so far, and education is key, and that more universities and colleges are getting involved in esports now with courses and competitions – this can help with the education and awareness.
On other regions, Ben suggested: “I don’t think any country has established itself as the go-to for esports. I would love for the UK to be the most attractive place in the world to set up an esports business or host a tournament.”

Five predictions for the future

The panel ended with one ‘outrageous prediction’ for UK esports and how it will change over the next five years.
1. Scott from Intel said he would like to see bigger tournaments and national tournaments in the UK having more teams and players, with UK players reaching more global tournaments.
2. Ben from the DCMS wants a UK player to win a premier event like the International.
3. We held the view that we wouldn’t be surprised if the esports bubble bursts in the next five or so years, but obviously let’s hope this doesn’t happen as it could mean job losses and investment pulled from big sporting clubs and other brands.
4. Martin from Gfinity said that a British esports player or team will start to dominate and take some major titles in top games, and for the UK scene to grow in terms of investment and revenues. “We could create one of the most valuable commercial destinations for esports in the world,” Martin said.
5. Kieran added onto our point that as long as investors look at esports as a long-term investment, the scene will be fine, and more infrastructure being here in the UK. He also said that there’s still a lack of professional orgs in the UK but that this is starting to change.
You can watch the discussion panel in full here:

Image source: Jak Howard

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