At a time where sweeping cutbacks are hitting the gaming and esports industries, one company is instead betting big on esports and education: Valhallan.
The esports training provider for young people, Valhallan, launched in the US in 2022 and began looking for UK franchisees.
Dr Amit Sra and Vivek Behl have secured the position of UK Master Franchisee, and opened the first British Valhallan Arena (in Ealing) last month, complete with a separate streamer/VoD review room.
While Valhallan call them arenas, they are essentially spaces for young people to play and learn, not actual stadium-sized arenas. In the centres, children aged 7-17 learn about things like reaction times, hand-eye coordination, collaboration, decision making, communication and teamwork, via an educational curriculum focuses on games like Fortnite, Valorant, Rocket League, Apex Legends, FC 24 and more.
Now the company has told Esports News UK that their second and third esports centres are set to open by 2024 via franchisees in Chigwell and Manchester, with ‘strong interest’ from potential franchise partners in West London and Essex.
The goal is to open more than 100 esports centres in the UK by 2029.
Valhallan say they also have ‘synergies with five universities and several medium-to-large enterprises’, and have just partnered with PC builder Chillblast to be their national supplier, as well as the likes of Tactus Group and Rev PR.
They’ve also brought on board some endemic esports talent into their team, including the likes of UK League of Legends caster Harry ‘Docda’ Evans as a Coach (now Business Facilitator) and the management of UK org CTRL Esports such as George Lewin and Will Holman as a Fortnite Coach.
Harry also tells us Valhallan has also brought on board a top 20 EU 17-year-old Overwatch coach known as fateuk, GameChangers player Ruby, an Apex semi-pro called Mystt, and Ryan Gohir, general manager of the Chiswick centre.
Valhallan hosts Discovery Days in the UK
Amit and Vivek are looking for more ‘like-minded entrepreneurs’ to establish more esports centres throughout the UK, and have been hosting discovery day events to find them. These aim to educate prospects on the Valhallan opportunity and support programme, with more days planned throughout 2024.
The most recent one took place on November 17th and 18th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ealing, featuring reps from UK suppliers and industry professionals, including the aforementioned Will Holman, owner of CTRL Esports, and Marty Flanagan, Valhallan’s VP of Franchise Development. He’s also VP of Brand Growth at FranchiCzar, parent company of Valhallan.
Educational sessions included an overview of the business model, key statistics and industry findings on the demand for in-person gaming opportunities for the next generation. There was a tour of the centre and a timed gaming challenge.
Amongst the attendees was Rob Brennan – former sports journalist turned council finance officer – and his son Andrew – an 11-year-old tech lover and one of the first UK Valhallan players.
‘We’re proud to bolster the brand’s success on British shores’ – interview with Valhallan
To find out more about the business, we caught up with UK Master Franchisees Vivek Behl (left) and Dr Amit Sra (right)
Please tell us about Valhallan and what you’re doing in esports.
Dr Amit Sra: Valhallan is an educational curriculum that began in the USA, ensuring all children between the ages of 7-17 have a place to study the art of esports through various games such as Fortnite, Valorant, Rocket League, Apex Legends, FC 24 and more.
It gives children the ability to learn about reaction times, hand-eye coordination, collaboration, and of course communication via team work whilst fostering the all important skills set of decision making and timing.
Tell us about your arenas – what do they offer, what events do they host and how do they engage with the community?
Valhallan arenas are bespoke and built with children in mind in that we have gaming walls, breakout areas and fast gaming PCs as well as consoles.
The events we have on offer are inclusive of all communities that ensure anyone can participate – we offer bespoke birthday parties, community open days, a place for children to learn from professionals not only within esports via coaches but also medical experts, technology SMEs and career advisors.
We also offer a way for children to learn about saving money through our unique v-exchange which offers the children a way to earn points as they play, learn, and attend building a pot of points to eventually use in the exchange albeit non financial with the elements of the exchanges internationally explained.
When do your new franchisee arenas open in Chigwell and Manchester?
We are hoping these will be opening by April 2024. We have several further at final stage discussion also and are excited to support them.
How does the franchising element of Valhallan work? How can people join as franchisees?
We have discovery days and hosted one in Ealing on November 17th and 18th 2023.
Through registeration [in the links at the bottom of this article] prospective franchisees from all over the UK can attend. We vet every potential franchisee to see if they hold the same values as they would be representing what we want to build for children.
Once we get them and they’ve gone through thorough checks, we then look at the financials to see if they can run a Valhallan to success supported by the master franchisor for the UK.
What was your recent Valhallan Discovery Day like?
Dr Amit Sra: We were thrilled to welcome such a breadth of talent over the course of the weekend. The excitement was palpable so we can only imagine it will be a matter of time before franchisee-operated arenas open in key regions across the nation.
Prospective investors travelled from as far north as Manchester and even from Limerick in Ireland to be with us on the Friday – we really appreciate their commitment to the brand. Like us, they’re passionate about bringing our educational and inclusive programme to all four corners of the UK.
Vivek Behl: To be able to proudly introduce prospects to our concept in a very real sense was a highlight for us both. Our overarching commitment at Valhallan is to deliver a fun, immersive and inclusive gaming experience in our purpose-built arenas. How can we expect our prospects to feel invested in our model without seeing this ‘play out’ for themselves?
What’s it been like to open the Ealing arena?
Dr Amit Sra: We were thrilled to witness the overwhelming response following the successful launch of Valhallan in Ealing.
It’s clear that our youth-focused esports training has struck a chord with young gamers, underscoring the value that the Valhallan programme brings to their gaming experiences.
In the UK, where a significant number of young people are actively engaged in video games, there’s a prime opportunity for entrepreneurs who share our vision to tap into this demand. With the growing number of young gamers, we believe the potential for Valhallan across the country is truly promising.
Are there other events you’re working on?
Vivek Behl: We will also be exhibiting at multiple esports industry and franchising events in the coming months, with strong interest already from potential franchise partners in Manchester, Essex and West London.
Along with the experts we’ve forged collaborations with, our collective knowledge and shared passion for youth esports is crucial for driving the need for dedicated arenas across the country. With such strong partnerships and the shared vision of success, we are well positioned to bring Valhallan to new communities in the UK.
Dr Amit Sra: We will be exhibiting at esports and franchising events around the country from as early as spring next year. The future certainly looks exciting for the Valhallan franchise investment opportunity in the UK, and we’re proud to bolster the brand’s success on British shores.
What are your goals and plans for the future, particularly in the UK?
Dr Amit Sra: We plan to be a feeder into universities that are growing their teams in the UK and hope to help youngsters even get through via a scholarship so they can study the course they wish to, whilst playing for their university.
Goals markers are set for 100+ arenas to open in the UK by 2029 and nationally we currently have synergies with five universities and several medium-to-large enterprises.
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.