The organisers of Lions League, a grassroots UK esports tournament, have apologised after their live event was callled ‘a complete disaster’ by one of the players taking part.
It was held at Rapture Gaming Festival in Kent’s Historic Dockyard Chatham last weekend. The event was one of the first esports LAN events to be held in the UK since the pandemic began, and took place on the same weekend as other separate LANS – epic.LAN 33 and the 2021 British Esports Student Championships finals.
The Lions League showmatch saw CHEESEexe defeat Horus Esports, but after the event, Horus player Bevve took to Twitter to complain about a ‘plethora of tech issues’.
Following the event, Ginx TV published a report on the Lions League LAN, uncovering other issues and criticisms around it, including some around management and communication. Organisers’ responses to this criticism can be found in full at the bottom of this article.
Many PCs were old or ill-prepared to run Counter-Strike properly, without DisplayPorts, some broke or faced other issues, and many had to be changed. There were other problems, including broken mixers, screens, chairs, desks and audio issues.
“The PCs were all different, some were AMD builds from the dinosaur age, my intel PC was an i3 with no GPU and we also had several players on 60hz,” Bevve said. “We were actually told days in advance we would all be on 300fps and 240hz, worst case scenario it would be 144hz, but still able to play good CS on.
“Even the desk was broken, I was playing on a slope for some reason with some bulky cloth on the top with creases (we couldn’t remove it). The audio was also a big issue, the stage behind us was only 40-60 seconds behind, their economy in my direct line of sight and all I could hear was the casters as speakers were on top of us.”
UMX and Obtained Esports were originally supposed to play in the final of the Lions League, but decided not to attend the LAN due to a ‘lack of confidence in the organisers’, as Ginx reported. Esports News UK was also told UMX couldn’t get players over from Ireland. The event was then turned into a showmatch instead. Esports News UK understands some staff were not made aware of this until the day.
Organisers told Esports News UK the actual final is taking place online, with dates to be confirmed.
The academy team of UK esports organisation Endpoint had also been playing in the Lions League prior to the LAN, and were were invited to play in the event last weekend, but made the decision not to attend.
Casters did their best to keep the show entertaining while attempts were made to fix the production issues:
At one point on the weekend, the event’s producer was moved onto another task, leaving other staff to scramble around to keep things going. One of the British Army members offered to help run vMix (vision mixer software), and former EFL member of staff Jamie Stewart said Lions League used his voice from a production video without his permission. Umesh Perera, chairman of Ayozat (the broadcast firm that ran the event), told Esports News UK he is happy to remove Jamie’s voice from any recordings.
There were several power cuts and a lack of internet on the Friday, making it difficult for staff to prepare.
Regarding the company behind the event, one source told Esports News UK: “It was a full-on amateur hour production. Staff were sitting in chairs on either side on the stage as can be seen in footage and casting from a 30-foot blow-up projector screen next to the players. It was a complete mess with no dedicated management. UKCS needs to have decent events and people who actually care, not these clowns.”
Bevve said that because of the event’s problems, the CHEESEexe and Horus Esports CSGO teams decided to split the prize money and share £250 each. This prize money has not yet been paid (though we understand it may take up to 30 days to come through), and one person working at the event paid some of the prize pool out of their own pocket as they felt bad for the players.
Umesh told Esports News UK: “As soon as we get an invoice, we’ll pay out, we usually pay within a week or two.”
Esports News UK also understands talent rates were lower than the norm, though talent did manage to negotiate and receive slightly higher than originally offered. And payments towards team travel costs were later lowered than what was originally agreed. Talent were apparently told that to receive the amounts they were properly owed, this could come at the cost of other people’s rates on the day due to the strict limit that organisers Ayozat had on the project (more on them in the section below).
Umesh said that “between £100 and £200 was paid out” to each team to cover travel costs.
Bevve added: “I’d like to clarify that the majority of staff, mostly being the casting team, were really good about the whole situation, of course we all know each other from Twitter and previous events and in all honestly I felt both bad and embarrassed for them. After speaking to them they were constantly apologising and upset towards whoever organised this complete disaster.”
Who was behind the event?
Several entities were involved in the running of the event: broadcast company Ayozat, events business Fragers, Rapture Gaming Festival and Lions League itself, which is billed as ‘the home of joint British Military Esports’ and is backed by the British Army Esports club.
Ayozat has a partnership with the British Army and was ultimately responsible for the production and running of the event. Ayozat previously secured a £121,000 12-month contract with the British Army to create content and esports activities with them.
While Rapture agreed to provide a space and PCs for Lions League at their gaming festival, Rapture organisers told Esports News UK they had previously warned Lions League that Rapture’s equipment ‘was not esports stock’, to later discover it was being used for a LAN. There’s more detail on that in the statements at the bottom of this article.
Another source said Umesh had “promised Rapture Gaming Festival the moon and gave them a horror show” and that there was “severe miscommunication” between the two.
In terms of Ayozat, Umesh Perera is the chairman of and leading force behind it, and is responsible for other initiatives including the eFighting League (eFL), esports wagering platform provider ScrimWare and more.
In recent years, Esports News UK has received press releases from Umesh and his team around the above, and other initiatives like the Army vs Air Force Overwatch match at Insomnia65, the Royal Engineers esports showmatches, the Stones.gg ‘edu-esports’ team, and a Gamers Paradise Hotel in Thailand.
Umesh says he has played Counter-Strike Source and Quake 2 competitively in the past, and has been ‘involved in and donating to the esports industry since 1999’. His website describes him as a ‘technologist, serial inventor and architect, a research and development and security expert and a program head who worked with on systems used to identify refugees which were later apparently used to create National Insurance, identity and tax systems’.
Ginx reported claims that ‘Umesh threw his weight around at the event, claiming he had the power to make teams lose their sponsors and stop them from appearing on TV’, and that he owns several channels, with players believing the event would be broadcast on Sky TV.
Umesh has denied this to Esports News UK.
Bevve added: “One of our players was sat down and told we should just all be grateful as it’s good exposure, making it out as if we were overreacting and had no right to do so. A typical know-it-all but lacking the knowledge of the industry he was working with that day.”
A couple of sources denied some of the claims in Ginx’s article, but several others have told Esports News UK they’re true. We have also heard similar stories about Umesh, and some sources have said Umesh’s past esports events have been poorly run, with some previous staff unhappy with how they were treated, including being regularly reassigned and on the receiving end of “unnecessarily aggressive outbursts”. Umesh has denied these alleged outbursts.
Esports News UK also understands that with government restrictions around covid, and the last minute nature of the LAN, meant it may have been more difficult than usual to prepare for. We understand that Rapture were short on staff due to some of them failing covid tests.
On the main stage at the event, the logos of EFL, Ayozat, the British Army, Valve, Warner Bros, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Sky and Freesat were featured on the display boards behind the players. Umesh says those companies are his partners, but some including Ubisoft, Warner Bros and Freesat said they had no involvement with the tournament.
“Ubisoft is not connected to this event in any manner,” Ubisoft told Esports News UK in a statement.
Ultimately, the event was delivered and the game was completed, but not everyone was happy with it.
Umesh told Esports News UK: “The final wasn’t going to happen but I wanted something to go ahead last weekend [hence the showmatch], I want to give back to this community, I love Counter-Strike. We’ve clearly made mistakes – we could have been more communicative.”
There’s more in Umesh’s full statement below.
What the organisers said: ‘We would like to apologise to all of those affected by this’
Umesh Perera, Ayozat chairman, sent Esports News UK the following statement on behalf of Lions League:
“It has come to our attention about a story that has spread itself about the Lions league event that was hosted on July 3rd and 4th 2021. Firstly, we would like to deeply apologise to all who had a bad experience throughout attending the Lions League at the Rapture Gaming Festival.
“On July 3rd it became clear to us that we were dealing with equipment issues which the Lions League staff involved at the event were trying to fix to the best of their capabilities. Unfortunately we weren’t able to fix the equipment which ultimately resulted in a lot of delay and overall a worse experience for the players who were playing at the event.
“Once again we would like to apologise to all of those affected by all of this. Lions League looks to build and give people in the UK CSGO scene an opportunity to shine and prove themselves. We have taken notes and made a report to the executives about the Lions League and we are looking to improve for the next event to make sure we don’t encounter any sorts of troubles like this anymore.
“Lions League will be looking to use this event as a foundation to do better and use our first-hand experience of the first event since COVID-19 in the UK to make sure we provide better experiences in the future. This will be Lions League’s only statement regarding this situation.”
Gary Kirby, founder and CEO of Fragers and Rapture Gaming Festival, told Esports News UK: “The [overall Rapture] event itself was a huge success for the visitors and exhibitors that attended, which of course is my objective as festival director. In specific response to this situation, there was indeed a misunderstanding around the nature and expectation for the Lions League CSGO slot, which was asked to be run at the end of the first day as the festival had closed for the day, and we innocently offered our stage to use for this.
“With a number of challenges arising from the pandemic and a series of power cuts during setup (it was a new venue that had never held an event). Some of the PCs we had been using were damaged during the day, which were replaced with older stock in error at one point, from another area, before being rectified.
“It’s an unfortunate set of unique circumstances that led to a less than satisfactory outcome for that one after show game, which must have been disappointing for those players. Under a non-pandemic situation, it wouldn’t have happened.
“I should add that we (Fragers) were not hired to deliver an esports event in any capacity. Ayozat were there supporting the British Army gamers’ activities (British Army were an exhibitor at the event) and we were asked if we could we spare a slot for them to run a game. We agreed, but cautioned that our assets were not esports stock (because our sponsored event loan stock had been returned at the start of the pandemic, so they could reissued away from events). We were assured that wasn’t a problem, then at the show it became clear it was being billed as a big esports LAN final, which of course isn’t what Rapture is all about. It’s a community-driven grassroots event for local visitors to come and enjoy a range of activities, which we delivered successfully. It’s sad it’s been twisted into this.”
Esports News UK also reached out to British Army Esports on the evening of July 6th. They responded, but said they needed to run the request past their communications team first. We’ll update this article if we receive a statement from them.
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.