Top 5 Moments in UK League of Legends Esports, including the UK players that went from the ESL Prem to Worlds – Opinion

The British Banditos


In this special series of in-depth articles, Esports News UK, in collaboration with the betting partner GGBET UK, delves into the stories, moments, and personalities that have left a lasting impression on the past, present, and future of the UK esports scene.
In this article, Dom Sacco provides a bitesize look at some of his top UK League of Legends’ memorable moments, after publishing our in-depth article on the history of UK League of Legends esports. Note: This list is subjective and Dom’s opinion on his moments, rather than a definitive list.

1. Renegades Banditos’ incredible run from the ESL UK Prem to the EU LCS – and their star UK players reaching Worlds

Back before franchising was brought in to the LEC, and teams could only buy their way in, there was a progression path.

National leagues would feed into the EU Challenger Series Qualifiers. From there, teams could get into the Challenger Series proper. And from there, the top teams could reach the holy grail of EU League of Legends: The EU LCS.

One team from the UK league went all the way from the national league to the LCS in one run.

That team was Renegades Banditos. First announced in early 2016, they had four UK players – Matthew “Impaler” Taylor (jungler), Barney “Alphari” Morris (top-laner), Marc “Caedrel” Lamont (mid-laner) and Divit “DxAlchemist” Bui (sub mid-laner).

They were joined by Dutch ADC Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert, as well as Finnish support player Aleksi “Hiiva” Kaikkonen and Polish top-laner Marcin “Xaxus” Maczka, who played as a sub. Ali “Alicus” Saba was named team manager and Hussain “Daku” Moosvi head coach, and NicoThePico as assistant coach.

The team didn’t actually make it through the first EU Challenger Series Qualifiers. They were beaten, and instead played in the next ESL UK Prem.

There were a few changes made to the roster, with subs like Candyfloss, Maxlore and SozPurefect coming in at certain points, and Yuuki60 replacing Tabzz in the bot lane.

Banditos beat Manalight in the ESL Prem Spring 2016 final 3-0 to reach the EU Challenger Series Qualifiers again. At this point, they rebranded to Misfits Gaming and made more roster changes.

misfits logo

They brought in jungler Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan, mid-laner Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski and support Han “Dreams” Min-Kook, replacing Impaler (who joined Fnatic Academy), Caedrel and Hiiva respectively. Alphari and Yuuki60 retained their positions on the team.

They topped their group, with four wins and one loss, with Fnatic Academy finishing bottom. They then beat Euronics to qualify for the Summer 2016 EU Challenger Series.

There, they smashed their competition, winning most of their matches, before 3-0ing Epsilon and Millenium in the playoffs.

Now, they were up against bigger fish in the EU LCS 2017 Spring Promotion tournament: Roccat, Origen, Schalke and Millenium.

They lost 3-2 to Origen but then beat Schalke 3-1 to reach the EU LCS.

For UK top-laner Alphari, the story wasn’t over. He stayed, as KaKAO, PowerOfEvil, Hans Sama and IgNar were brought in. Together, they finished second in their group, but finished fourth in the playoffs.

Then later in the year, Alphari was reunited with his old UK teammate Maxlore. He replaced South Korean player KaKAO, who left due to communication issues with the team.

After the summer season, Misfits had done enough to reach Worlds. There, they made it to the quarter finals.

With British manager Joe “InnerFlame” Elouassi also on board, this meant that one of the eight best League of Legends teams in the world (at the time) had two UK players in it, and a UK manager.

At that point, Misfits very nearly turned their run into something truly magical, having come agonisingly close to beating giants SKT T1 in the quarter final, losing 3-2 after being 2-1 ahead.

Regardless, the Misfits name at this point was truly established, and UK talent Alphari, Maxlore and InnerFlame had etched their names into UK and European League of Legends history.

2. Excel Esports surprise the scene as one of first orgs to secure an LEC slot

xl new logo 2017 1

Once upon a time, back in the early days of UK League of Legends, Excel Esports were one of several sides competing in the old ESL Premiership and UK Masters tournaments.

They had mixed results, floating around the table each season, and securing a few top-half finishes.

They eventually picked up a title after reverse sweeping Team Singularity 3-2 in the ESL Prem Autumn 2017 finals. Then they went on to win the UK Masters at Insomnia62.

And Ryan ‘Barnetto’ Barnett, who was there in Excel’s early days and after a few stints elsewhere, is back working with them in their current guise today, hinted at even bigger things. He wasn’t wrong.

The story of Excel Esports is part of UK esports folklore. Brothers Kieran and Joel Holmes-Darby came up with the idea to start the organisation while drinking in a pub. They founded it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Excel might not have had the greatest results on the rift in the early days, week in week out, but they made up for it with their ideas, creativity, and management. We remember being at an old LAN event and Kieran taking a real interest in Esports News UK, asking about how we come up with our article ideas, and working closer together. His passion in the space was clear, and his goal was to make Excel the most successful esports org from the UK.

Barnetto reminds us that Excel were the first UK team to represent the UK in the EU Masters, and they also opened a gaming house with HP Omen in Reading.

Despite the successes, when reports first emerged in 2018 of Riot Games moving its EU LCS league to a franchise model, it’s fair to say no one expected an organisation from the smaller UK circuits to be included amongst the bigger names of Fnatic, G2 and the like.

But Excel surprised everyone when they announced in November 2018 that Excel would be joining the LEC.

Excel co-founder Kieran Holmes-Darby said at the time:

“This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to Excel as a brand and to me as an individual. Whilst we understand that competing against some of the world’s best esports teams will undoubtedly be a challenge, we believe we’re prepared for it.”

Kieran Holmes-Darby speaking about Excel joining the LEC in 2018

Excel also secured investment from Guinevere Capital and a consortium led by the JRJ Group, a UK-based investment firm, to support their growth.

They were, at this point, miles ahead of the other orgs in the ESL Prem, and while it took some time to get going in the LEC, they eventually made playoffs a few years later and are a staple part of the tournament circuit now.

They went on to open Excel’s base of operations at Twickenham Stadium, where they hosted the acclaimed Neosurf Cup in 2020.

Sadly, Excel’s founders Joel and Kieran left the organisation in late 2020 and early 2022 respectively. They had sold shares in the business to generate investment to help Excel grow, and in doing so, lost controlling stakes in the organisation. Tim Reichert came on board just before Kieran’s departure, and is co-CEO today.

Today Excel is known as GiantX after merging with Giants Gaming. The old Excel may no longer exist, but Kieran and Joel and everyone else who built what they are today should be proud of what they started, and the talents they worked with and fostered who have gone on to become well-established in the industry, from Boaster to AngelArcher, Furndog to Nathan Edmonds, Aux to Caedrel and more.

They showed the rest of the scene what could be done through planning, hard work and proper partnerships, not just signing the best rosters, and that’s why this is one of my top moments in UK LoL history.

3. London hosting major events including MSI and Worlds

MSI 2023 G2 BLG London

The EU LCS (as it was known before rebranding to the LEC years later) came to London’s Wembley Arena in June 2014. 10,000 fans attended over the weekend.

Then, a year later, the Worlds 2015 quarter finals were held at the same venue, brining some of the world’s best teams to London to compete there on a stage of this kind for the first time, including the likes of South Korean giants SKT T1.

Following this, after an eight-year absence of any major League of Legends events in the UK (thanks, Brexit), following Worlds in 2015, London’s Copperbox Arena hosted the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational last year, and fans brought the noise.

Audience stats included the following:

Naz Aletaha, Global Head of League of Legends Esports, told Esports News UK in an MSI 2023 Riot press conference last year: “Seeing the fans here supporting Brazilian teams, LATAM teams, obviously EMEA teams, LPL, LCK, we love that. And we actually look for that when we choose our host regions and host cities – where can we go that’s going to be international?

“We want fans to be able to travel in, if they can, and we want to of course bring the best of League of Legends to all the local fans here. And to answer your question, you can definitely expect us to come back.”

Naz was true to her word. This year, the LoL Worlds 2024 grand finals will take place at the London O2.

4. The UKLC and that tower format


The UK League of Legends Championship (UKLC) was announced at a time where optimism was high in the scene.

Riot had not long partnered with LVP and had invested millions. They were promising big things after the £50,000 Forge of Champions tournament, and in early 2019, they announced the UKLC.

Riot and LVP aimed to professionalise the scene by swapping a traditional prize pool format out for financial stipends, or revenue-based incentives for teams. Organisations were signed to the UKLC based on their business models.

Aside from this, the UKLC introduced a tower format.

Each week, teams attempted to scale the UKLC tower by going head-to-head in a best-of-one knockout tournament. The team that climbs highest then got to face the previous week’s tower champion. If victorious, they became tower champions and got bragging rights for the next week, along with a bunch of championship points.

Nik ‘Lustriga’ Topham, told Esports News UK: “After I joined LVP UK, I proceeded to try and smooth the edges of the tower format, take away some of the randomness, all while trying to bring a more traditional format to the table.”

It was an interesting idea, and got the community talking. Some liked it, others hated it. Regardless, after it was scrapped for a double round robin tournament later that year, some wanted it back.

And it’s still being talked about today. Call it a meme, call it genious, the tower format will never be forgotten.

5. Insomnia LANs

It’s hard to pick moments for this article, and some might criticise my choices, but given Insomnia Gaming Festival has been the only regular and consistent LAN over the years, I’m including it.

After criticisms of player quality being low at Insomnia in 2017, and prizing being low compared to ticket costs, several of the more established organisations left, leaving it to become more a grassroots-focused tournament series.

Insomnia Gaming Festival LAN

But that’s to take nothing away from Cabbage Corp, who secured their fourth LoL Open in a row at i71 last year.

Earlier this year, Ruddy won i72 to add a new name to the Insomnia winners list.

Insomnia might not be exactly what it was back in the day, and prize pools haven’t scaled as they should have done, but the moments are there, as shown in this piece about UK LoL being about friendship and having a laugh. On that note…

Honourable mention: The power of the community

I’d like to end this article focusing on the community. Two years ago, the UK, Ireland and Nordics LoL esports community was up in arms over grassroots tournaments being shut down by Riot and Freaks 4U.

They made noise, and after some time, this decision was eventually reversed. Similar incidents have happened in the past too.

It’s a reminder that while the UK League community might not be the biggest, it’s unwavering, strong and relatively unified, and we look forward to seeing which moments it produces in the future.

Stay tuned for more articles powered by GGBET UK soon. See more UK esports history content here:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments