The UK, while being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world has a rather unevolved and dull esport scene. Why is that? Such a developed country with a population of roughly 65 million, you would think that the UK has a thriving esport scene, but that is not the case. Although there is a large potential market, the United Kingdom is falling behind nearly every other major country in the world.
It is unfair to say that the scene is lacking talent. League of Legends players like Matthew "Impaler" Taylor, Simon "fredy122" Payne, Raymond "kaSing" Tsang (who played for H2K at the 2015 World Championship), Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian,Barney "Alphari" Morris and Stephen "Snoopeh" Ellis (who represented CLG.EU during the Season 2 World Championship) have already made a name for themselves as the cream of the crop in the EU scene. The CS:GO scene isn't missing talent either with players such as Rory "dephh" Jackson, Kia "Surreal" Man and Alex "ALEX" McMeekin slowly grinding to the top, and legends like Sam "RattlesnK" Gawn, who is nearing the epilogue of his career. Even in rising titles like Rocket League and Heroes of the Storm, players from the UK are beginning to make their mark.
While the UK scene has a vast and largely untapped talent pool, organization-wise, it is stronger than most people think. One of the strongest and most popular organizations in the world, Team Dignitas, is registered and centered in the UK.
Other organizations like Team Infused, Reason Gaming, and Molotovs and Marshmallows, as well as the former TCM Gaming, have already made huge steps towards international recognition, but still aren't fully there yet.
If the talent isn't found in the teams themselves, it is definitely the people behind the scenes. The veteran journalist Richard Lewis brought up the issue with the following comments:
"UK organizations insist their players behave like pros, but they don't pay a salary, they expect them to practice eight hours a day... some people even attempt to write this into their unenforceable bullsh*t contracts. They put all this expectation on them, but where are the rewards?" he asks.
"If you're a pro player, you have to be paid to be professional. That's the point. I've literally seen people try and enforce contracts that have no salaries. Good luck with that, by the way."
This interview kind of takes us back to the time when the esport scene was just blooming and salaries for professional players were always the biggest issue.
Primarily, a lack of big tournaments and in house leagues has stagnated the growth of the UK esport scene. As well, virtually non-existent marketing is making an already hard task nearly impossible. Without appealing to the masses, the UK scene is going to remain in the shadows.
The solution is clear, and it should be learned from other scenes that have developed. More media coverage and exposure are needed if esports in the UK is going to grow. In the USA, one of the countries biggest sports channels, ESPN, has started covering numerous gaming tournaments, with the various fighting games at EVO chosen as a means to help introduce the concept of esports to the general public as they are easier to follow than a complex MOBA.
Improving and drawing from the talent pool is a much harder, long term issue. Overall tournament quality needs to improve, and the mentality of the players has to work on, as an environment with very little competition will always have a negative effect on the improvement of players. All of this will help to bridge the gap between competitive and casual players, thus opening the road to newer and younger players.
If all of this happens, maybe we will see the United Kingdom with a super team of its own, instead of individual players competing with players and teams of other nations. The passion and follow is definately there in the United Kingdom, now we just need people to start building the infrastructure and capitalize on this relatively untapped market.
We will also have to keep an eye on Cloud9 and how their involvement with the city of London for the Overwatch League will influence the state of the regions esports scene in the coming weeks.
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