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The Year Esports Came To Town: Reigniting The Passion For UK Esports

UK fans are getting a wave of major esports tournaments like never before, and it sparks immense hope for the future of the home scene.
The Year Esports Came To Town: Reigniting The Passion For UK Esports
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Esports has been a tricky topic for the UK lately. Fewer UK-based esports teams are qualifying for major tournaments, and the more renowned ones are moving on to greener pastures. Just last year, London’s official CDL team, London Royal Ravens, relocated to the USA and was renamed to the Carolina Royal Ravens, leaving the UK Call of Duty scene in an uncertain state. But despite a lack of presence on the main stages, the UK communities remain ever-passionate. If anything, we’ve never been hungrier for more involvement — and it seems event organisers are taking note. 

This year, we’re seeing an unprecedented amount of tournaments return to the UK across a variety of esports. We saw Dota 2’s ESL One take place in Birmingham this April, the R6 Manchester Major in May, and we've just wrapped up the Counter-Strike BLAST Premier Spring Final at Wembley Arena, but there’s plenty more to come. The RLCS returns to London’s Copper Box Arena later this month, and League of Legends Worlds will also tear it up at Wembley in November. Frankly, UK fans have never had it so good. 

The R6 Major was held in the UK for the first time this May. (Picture: Adela Sznajder, Ubisoft)

Why so many esports have decided to hone in on our hellish little island at the same time is anyone’s guess, but there’s a very clear appeal. Chrystina Martel, Executive Producer for BLAST Rainbow Six, said of the recent R6 Manchester Major, “The UK has always been a favourite because we know the crowd shows up... So that was a big factor for Ubisoft. But also we knew the crowd would be amazing, and they deserved a major and it was time.”

UK crowds are something to be experienced. There’s an unrivalled amount of enthusiasm, not just for the favoured team but for anyone caught in the fire of a crowd chant. It stems from our football culture, and translates almost seamlessly over to esports tournaments. Now, they’re not for the faint hearted, and some chants could absolutely be left out of the arena. But, for the most part, they add a level of vibrancy to live matches that you just won’t get anywhere else. 

Speaking on the UK crowd, British CS host James Banks said, “I think the crowd works so well because there isn’t a national bias. Now, maybe they'll pull a bit more for Vitality, like they did for smooya when he was in BIG. But in general, they're just fans of different teams. They're fans of the game.”

Perhaps that’s borne out of having so few UK teams to rally behind, that we’re jumping at the chance to support a UK player wherever they might be. But it also means that each organisation has a fan base here, no matter their nationality, because we just love seeing pros make those high-skill plays. So if more tournament organisers are setting their sights on the UK, recognizing the significance of our crowd, does this mean the country is gearing up for an esports boom? The talent certainly hopes so.

On the BLAST Premier Spring Final, Banks said, “This is a massive boost for the scene. Hopefully, it's the start of doing more events in the UK. I'd definitely love it.” 

@ginxtv 🎤 With the London’s CS Blast done and dusted, Alex got right amongst it to find out who the MVP of the tournament was with GG.Bet… 💬 Leave your favourite below! #CSBlast #CounterStrike #ESports #FyP ♬ original sound - GINX

But it’s hard to nurture a community with little homegrown talent to latch on to, and to do so despite this speaks to the UK crowd’s dedication. There are notable players dotted around, such as Team Vitality’s William “mezii” Merriman, or Fnatic’s Jake “Boaster” Howlett — across all esports we have talented casters, hosts, and players. What we need now is more support and entry points in order to continue nurturing up-and-coming talent, ensuring they have a space to play to the home crowd.

For Rocket League, OG’s Joseph ‘noly’ Kidd, who hails from Liverpool, definitely sees the potential: “I still think there's a healthy amount of English talent that is just about there that can be developed into the next stage. I just don't think anyone's been there to help them develop at the same time.”

UK pro William "mezii" Merriman playing for Team Vitality at IEM Katowice 2024. (Picture: ESL)

My hope is that, after all of these tournaments, fans, organisers, and organisations will look back on 2024 having seen the best the UK scene has to offer. Taking note of the passion and the potential for the country to remain a significant market for esports. To inspire the next generation of talent there needs to be investment in access, in teams, and in grassroots circuits.

There needs to be opportunities like the BLAST Premier Spring Final, or LoL Worlds, where UK fans can see the level of skill in-person and on home soil, to know where to set their sights. Esports is entering what feels like a new wave, and the UK needs to be along for the ride.

GGBet x Blast

GG.BET is an international esports betting brand with an ambition to create the best esports betting experience for fans and users. The online bookmaker plays an active role in the development of esports by supporting international tournaments, such as BLAST Premier. The operator is also a long-term partner of the legendary esports teams NAVI and Team Vitality.