#ESILondon – ‘Ins and outs of running a team’ recap

Esports Insider’s flagship event, ESI London, took place in September and the very first panel on day one saw a star-studded line up for the session dubbed ‘The ins and outs of running a team‘.

We assembled a line-up of owners and managers from top organisations compLexity Gaming, Fnatic, Team Vitality, and Virtus.pro to discuss what exactly goes into maintaining a successful team, how things have changed over the years, and what can be expected in the future with players becoming stars in their own right.

Anna Baumann, Esports Lawyer

Patrik Sättermon, Co-owner of Fnatic

Jason Lake, CEO of compLexity Gaming
Nicolas Maurer, CEO of Team Vitality
Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager of Virtus.pro

The ins and outs
From left: Anna Baumann, Esports Lawyer, Patrik Sättermon, Co-owner of Fnatic, Jason Lake, CEO of compLexity Gaming, Nicolas Maurer, CEO of Team Vitality, Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager of Virtus.pro. Credit: jakhowardphoto

Establishing and managing a successful esports organisation involves a lot more than simply putting a team together. It requires extensive scouting of new talent, planning their development, and making plentiful decisions on the business side of the operation too. Can team owners and managers look at traditional sports to see what can be applied? All of these topics and more were discussed during the panel on September 19th. 

Jason Lake told attendees that ever since compLexity Gaming was acquired by Jerry Jones, Owner of Dallas Cowboys, in November 2017 that they had been utilising the resources made available to them. The Dallas Cowboys are a successful entity in the world of American football, and while he didn’t divulge exactly how he has learned from them, he was positive in doing as such. He noted that the Cowboys are also learning from compLexity since they’re an in-and-out digital company that thrives on the internet and times are changing.

“Players are starting to learn the value of long-term contracts.” – Nicolas Maurer

Nicolas Maurer used the example of the EU LCS adopting a franchising model and how that affects the organisation’s League of Legends team. Up until 2019, the competition has always been on an open model that meant relegation was a factor. Team Vitality felt pressured when it came to finding the right players as they didn’t want to be relegated, of course, but that will change in the future – providing new challenges for teams and their players.

Roman Dvoryankin was partially hired by Virtus.pro because of the years of experience he has built up in traditional sports. He noted that there’s a big difference between esports and a sport such as football: in football, you can bench a problematic player – in esports, however, teams aren’t often afforded that luxury. That’s why it’s important for esports teams to give players what they need to succeed, that makes it fair to expect them to succeed.

Ins and outs of running a team
From left: Jason Lake, compLexity Gaming, Roman Dvoryankin, Virtus Pro, Nico Maurer, Team Vitality, and Patrik Sattermon, Fnatic. Credit: jakhowardphoto

Jason went on to categorise what he feels are the three stages of esports for players, which all award very different experiences for players:

Esports 1.0 – Players lived in their mother’s basements, training with their team online.

Esports 2.0 – The team house generation. Playing and communicating in one central space, which is an improvement but causes a problem in which they’re always together.

Esports 3.0 – Focusing on players’ entire life, not just how they perform in-game. This includes luxury apartments so they have their own space, tried and testing training facilities that work in traditional sports (such as that of the Dallas Cowboys), free gym membership, and so on.

“You can only expect players to do their best if you give them the best.” – Roman Dvoryankin

Maurer explained that it can be risky to put too much emphasis on players as they can come and go. The brand itself has to be of priority to organisations, and Team Vitality’s brand is one of its core assets. Of course, players require a lot of attention and effort, but brands can’t be neglected in doing so.

The approach to training players has changed over the years, with an emphasis being placed on efficiency rather than quantity at this time. Patrik Sättermon has found that six to eight hours of training a day, five to six times a week is the best routine for his players.

He also explained that access to players is considerably different in esports than in traditional sports, so you can only look at the approach in that industry so much. Organisations can access players from around the world in real-time due to the internet. With Clash Royale, for example, Fnatic pooled players from a combined event where everybody could compete.

All-in-all, there are some lessons to be learnt from traditional sports in terms of the amount of attention and quality of treatment players receive, but esports is fundamentally different. The standards of training is changing often, and so are the conditions in which players are looked after by the teams they represent.

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