With Birmingham’s ESL One, ESL UK is hoping to put British esports back in the spotlight

That ESL UK is hosting Dota 2’s first ever UK major, an ESL One event, in Birmingham is a clear statement of intent, and it’s necessary, considering the British esports scene. So strong during the PC golden age for Call of Duty 2 and Modern Warfare, it’s a shadow of its former self.

Speaking to MCV, ESL UK’s managing director James Dean said: “I think we showed a lot of promise in the early 2000s, but the UK has been lagging behind a little bit. I think communities are being disenfranchised, there’s been a lack of consistency and I think there’s always been this perception of a fragmented playerbase between PC and console as well.”

ESL UK’s mission is two-fold. It wants to put the UK back on the global esports map, planning to follow up ESL One Birmingham with another next year. It also wants to create a decentralised scene for a country where most of the worthwhile events for any industry seem to take place exclusively in London.

Birmingham, as the UK’s second largest city, is a fitting home for an ESL One event, as well as being a fair bit cheaper for the incoming Dota 2 fanbase than the capital. Esports has done this all around the world: Dreamhack takes place in the peaceful Swedish city of Jönköping and ESL’s huge IEM Katowice event takes place in the Polish city of Katowice. Both events are huge, generating massive income for any businesses in the surrounding area. If the UK can offer up similarly attractive cities for global esports, we could be seeing serious esports investment in the country.

Birmingham has the infrastructure to deal with huge crowds and has transport links to cities across Europe and Asia. Perhaps Birmingham could become England’s first ever esports city and I’d personally be glad I don’t have to get on a plane quite so much to see quality esports action.

At this early stage, ESL UK’s faith in Birmingham seems well-placed. The event was sold out within six hours, and ESL named it the fastest selling Dota 2 Major ever.

For its sins, ESL UK now has the unenviable task of trying to get chairs moved around to fit even more fans into the arena. But the reward for its efforts could be huge: the world is watching, and if Birmingham shows itself to be a quality venue for esports, there are many more companies that will surely take a chance on it. 

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