Left to right: Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, British Esports CEO Chester King and Sunderland City Council chief exec Patrick Melia
For transparency: Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco used to work full-time for British Esports between September 2016 and February 2021, and currently does some freelance work for them, producing their weekly email newsletter.
The British Esports Association (BEA) will open an esports performance and education campus at city centre regeneration project Riverside Sunderland, which will aim to nurture and support the next generation of talent.
BEA has made a multi-million pound commitment to the city of Sunderland, having acquired a former retail/car showroom premises adjacent to the Stadium of Light, where it will establish its National Esports Performance Campus (NEPC).
The NEPC will aim to become a centre of excellence, providing access to ‘state-of-the-art equipment, training and investment that will support Sunderland, the North East and the UK to become a globally-recognised esports hub capable of attracting and developing the world’s best esports talent’.
The campus will offer educational and coaching courses for players and other roles within the esports industry, and will feature esports classrooms, performance rooms, streaming booths for shoutcaster skills and an arena space. It will also play host to regular esports events, community tournaments, summer camps and be used as a training base for the Great Britain esports team, which recently took part in the Global Esports Games in Singapore.
BEA hopes that the move will support Sunderland, the North East and the UK to become a ‘globally-recognised esports hub capable of attracting and developing the world’s best esports talent’. The NEPC is set to open in the summer, with a full refurbishment and an extension planned to the current 11,000 sq ft space set to start this month.
The British Esports Association has also partnered with Sunderland College to offer people the opportunity to gain esports career skills and qualifications. The esports courses will be delivered at the new NEPC in Sunderland from this September.
BEA bills itself as a national body for esports. It runs grassroots tournaments for school and college students and runs the Esports BTEC with education provider Pearson.
Chester King, chief executive officer at BEA, said: “The UK is Europe’s second biggest video game market and ranked sixth globally – this speaks to the potential of esports which will capitalise on gaming’s popularity, with talented competitors emerging and a growing audience keen to spectate and enjoy esports as a leisure activity. This is a market that we know will explode in the UK and we want to support its growth.
“Sunderland is a hugely ambitious and future-focused city and that aligns very much to BEA and esports, which has vast growth potential and ties into Sunderland’s strengths in gaming, digital and sport. The campus will be an inspirational site, a place for players and coaches to work, learn and develop. This is a much-needed facility and through my team’s experiences we understand its importance.”
Chester also told the BBC: “We’re like the FA (Football Association) of esports – we run grassroots tournaments and look after the national team.”There are a lot of professional teams that have their own bases around the country, but nothing of this scale.”
The move into Sunderland will initially create 20 jobs in the city. And Sunderland’s focus on 5G and digital technology was another driver in BEA’s move to the area.
Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, added: “Esports has been a phenomenal global success, and it is a huge growth market in the UK that will be realised over the coming years. BEA’s move puts Sunderland at the beating heart of that, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, commented: “This is a truly game-changing development for Sunderland, and we could not be more excited about having BEA choose the city for its NEPC.
“Sunderland is pioneering in so many ways right now – from our work to build a low carbon future, to developing world-class urban communities, to the digital infrastructure that we’re putting in place across the city to ensure residents and businesses thrive. This investment from BEA brings together all of these strategies and we cannot wait to see it come to fruition.”
Potential partners for the project can get in touch by emailing [email protected].
Dom is an award-winning writer and finalist of the Esports Journalist of the Year 2023 award. He 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 and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Federation up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and offer esports consultancy and freelance services. Note: Dom still produces the British Esports newsletter on a freelance basis, so our coverage of British Esports is always kept simple – usually just covering the occasional press release – because of this conflict of interest.