Margot James’ backing of esports in the UK has been encouraging and we should demand the same from the next Culture Minister, says Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco.
I know that in the past, the UK Government has been a little slow to recognise esports compared to some other countries, but over the past year or so I’ve been impressed by the relatively swift progress made.
That progress is due to several factors, but for me a large part of it comes down to the industry reaching out to government, and government actually taking the time to listen, understand and consider what it can do to support esports.
Since Margot James’ appointment as Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in January 2018, up until her resignation last week, she has shown an interest in esports in the UK – and that is something I think we should recognise.
Most notably, she has publicly backed ESL One Birmingham – both this year and last year – and has spoken with the likes of ESL (pictured above) and others to better understand esports and the importance of having events like this in the UK.
Absolutely brilliant to visit #ESLOneBirmingham today. Blown away by everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve seen.
You may know we attended #ESLOneBirmingham on Friday? @UkieSoph recounts the experience, from the esports panel with @margot_james_mp & Lead Teachers @TG_151 @ict_sjfdewsbury, to the buzzing event & Dota2 action ? https://t.co/oZ6BD46p93 @IntelUK @ESLDota2 @ESL pic.twitter.com/aFVpAxnOxs
— Digital Schoolhouse (@DigSchoolhouse) June 3, 2019
She has met with London Spitfire, recognised Riot’s work with Forge of Champions and liaised with other people in gaming such as Razer boss Min-Liang Tan.
— Margot James (@margot_james_mp) October 25, 2018
For now the progress I’ve mentioned has largely been about recognising esports and understanding it, as opposed to passing legislation around it or offering funding.
So earlier this year, it was encouraging to see £4m of government funding go towards Weavr, a consortium led by ESL UK set up to research and create new ‘immersive audience experiences’ for esports fans.
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries @margot_james_mp is attending the Audiences of the Future showcase this morning, announcing government and industry support for new immersive experiences as part of the #IndustrialStrategy #AudienceFuture pic.twitter.com/qUgrzGsVV3
— DCMS (@DCMS) January 10, 2019
Beyond supporting events and initiatives, Margot also took the time to understand some of the issues UK esports faces.
For example, obtaining visas for esports talent has been a challenge for several organisations here, and while key changes are yet to be made, it’s a start.
The government is listening. For example, see Margot’s public response to Paul Chaloner’s letter to the government about esports, Brexit and visas here.
It’s not often you see a government minister backing esports, so I want to say thank you to Margot for her work in this space.
It’s not just Margot, of course. The likes of Lynne Kilpatrick, Stephen Mayne, Ben Greenstone, Chris Hurne, Ed Vaizey and others have supported or looked into video games and esports in recent years, while MPs from other parties such as Labour’s Tom Watson and Kevin Brennan have shown interest in this space too.
I know esports is low on the priority list what with Brexit and the current Tory party shake-up, but I hope that whoever takes Margot’s place will give esports the same amount of interest she has shown (or more). And I look forward to seeing how the government gets involved in our exciting industry in the years to come.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.