Chester King is the Founder and Acting CEO of the British Esports Association. The organisation has been around for over a year now and, more recently, recruited an advisory board which contains big names in the scene such as Michael O’Dell, CEO of Dignitas, Ryan Hart and Paul ‘ReDeYe’ Chaloner.
Andy Payne is Chairman whilst Dom Sacco is the Content Director. The multi-faceted organisation boasts governmental support, and now it’s over a year old we decided to catch up with Chester ahead of his speaker slot at the Telegraph’s Business of Sport event in London in May.
Esports Insider: What is the aim of the British Esports Association? What is its long term goal and what does it want to become?
Chester: The British Esports Association is a not-for-profit organisation designed to support and promote esports, with a focus on the grassroots level. It is the national body for esports in the UK and was established with authority from the UK Government in January 2016.
Our five long-term goals are to support grassroots esports, establish best practice, deliver courses and qualifications, increase awareness of esports and to provide expertise and advice.
“We need a greater level of funding going into the British esports scene. We are working on a big research project right now which will hopefully help to educate the government on esports”
We also want to support the esports community in Britain and to help develop more future global champions.
Esports Insider: What needs to happen for the UK to become more of a force to be reckoned with in terms of the level of players across titles in the top competitions?
Chester: League operators like ESL, Gfinity, Multiplay, Epic.LAN and the National University Esports League are already doing more to help improve UK esports. Gfinity has just announced its Challenger Series, which aims to help more amateur players go pro, and there are other initiatives on the horizon from other companies which we are excited about seeing once they’re announced.
Ultimately, we need a greater level of funding going into the British esports scene. We are working on a big research project right now which will hopefully help to educate the government on esports. But grassroots support is key – a lot of talented players get a job elsewhere and leave esports behind. We want to show that esports can offer a viable career path to people in Britain, and that’s not just for players – but for casters, production workers, journalists, coaches, analysts and so on.
Esports Insider: You’re speaking at the Telegraph’s Business of Sports in May. What will you be discussing and what does your involvement alone say about the state of esports?
Chester: There will be a panel discussion around esports called ‘What is the world of sports’ response to esports and who is profiting?’. British Esports Association advisory board member and caster Ceirnan “Excoundrel” Lowe will also be speaking at the event as well as Chris Mead from Twitch.
“It (esports) is a modern mind game (a Chess 2.0) and we are keen for parents to understand that playing esports is better than watching passive media like TV”
I will be clarifying the position that esports (in the UK) is not classified as a sport but a game. It is a modern mind game (a Chess 2.0) and we are keen for parents to understand that playing esports (in moderation and part of your balanced life) is better than watching passive media like TV. It is not a rival to sport but is actually a great mental health activity.
I think it’s great that the wider media is taking note of esports, but more can be done to better educate them around competitive gaming and its benefits. That’s why we’re talking at these events and talking to the media regularly to help increase the awareness of esports, and to also ensure coverage of it by the mainstream press is accurate and fair.
Esports Insider: How did you first get into esports?
Chester: I have a 16 year old son who as has been an avid esports player for the last six years. I realised there was nothing really out there offering guidance to young esports players and other professionals in Britain, and thought it’d be valuable for the industry to have an organisation set up to support and promote grassroots.
“Educating teachers and parents around the benefits of esports is key”
The response we’ve had so far has been fantastic, we’ve got a great advisory board together and are receiving lots of requests every day from players, parents and other parties interested in esports in Britain.
Esports Insider: How will you be working with schools and academies to promote esports?
Chester: Educating teachers and parents around the benefits of esports is key. We hope to be working very closely with schools and academies going forwards. Just the other week our content director Dominic Sacco was interviewed by pupils from the Edinburgh Academy school about esports. They are producing a BBC School Report, a project which motivates 11 to 16 year olds to make and broadcast their own news. The kids were really switched on and this kind of engagement is incredibly valuable, in terms of educating children and adults around the benefits of esports.
We are working on a project right now which will hopefully involve schools in the future, but it’s early days at the moment and we hope to reveal more information on this later in the year.
Esports Insider: Can you tell us more about the advisory board at British Esports Assoc., why were they chosen and what do they do?
Chester: The advisory board was set up to offer input and guidance, both for our initiatives and areas that the board feel we should be focusing on in the future.
“The likes of Paul Chaloner, Michael O’Dell and Chris Mead have years of experience and knowledge in esports and bring a lot to the table as part of our advisory board”
Esports is an extremely specialist area and getting the community on board is vital. For us not to be taking counsel from experts and veterans in this industry would be a mistake. The likes of Paul Chaloner, Michael O’Dell and Chris Mead have years of experience and knowledge in esports and bring a lot to the table as part of our advisory board.
The board regularly meet to discuss developments and areas of focus for the British Esports Association, and offer their input. We have representatives from the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) and also DIT (Department of International Trade).
We meet four times a year in person, and update them every few weeks with our latest initiatives. They get involved with our plans, help us with research, offer to speak at events and the media, and collaborate with others in the British esports scene to help it flourish.