From Schalke to EXCEL: Tim Reichert’s story of growing high-potential teams

19 January 2022


EXCEL Esports Tim Reichert
(ESI Illustration) Tim Reichert. Image credit: EXCEL Esports

Tim Reichert’s name might not be all that familiar to most esports fans in Europe, but his work and legacy certainly are. One of the founders of SK Gaming, former Head of Esports at Schalke 04 Esports, and a client manager for Media Com Germany, Reichert is a man of many talents. Most recently, he’s been putting those skills to work as the new Head of Esports for British esports organisation EXCEL Esports. 

Esports Insider sat down with Reichert late last year to discuss the ins and outs of his new position, plans for the future, and his overall vision as the leader of an organisation that is, by many accounts, still waiting to realise its full potential.

EXCEL was probably not a company you’d immediately guess Reichert would go to after a successful period at Schalke, but Reichert is sure he made the right decision and feels very good about his future. However, to address the elephant in the room first: why did Tim Reichert start working for EXCEL?

“I did like what I did at Schalke and there were plenty of different opportunities out there, but for me, I came to the conclusion that working on an organisation, working with teams and players, working with the content department was something that I still wanted to continue,” he said. “I looked at different options and EXCEL had, actually, a really nice package.”

Reichert added that he saw a lot of progress in EXCEL and a lot of potential. “I want to be in a business where your work is visible and you can be effective”, he explained. For him, EXCEL is the best place to be able to do that right now — although there is still a lot of work to be done.

EXCEL vs G2 Esports LEC LoL
EXCEL vs. G2 at the LEC. Image credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games

Doing a lot with little

The second elephant in the room is, of course, Schalke 04. Reichert started his career at Schalke in 2015, and has been instrumental in the growth of its esports section. When the football club faced financial difficulties and was relegated to the second tier of the German Bundesliga in 2021, the decision was made to sell its LEC slot to Team BDS for €26.5 million (~£22.1m).

The time at Schalke was an interesting one for Reichert, and the German team’s ex-Head of Esports noted that he did not anticipate being in the club for such a long time, especially during the first two years. The beginnings of Schalke 04 Esports were, as Reichert put it, very rough, even for a person who actually played professional football in his life.

He described how at the start, the club did not invest as much into esports as he would’ve hoped, and the entire project was slow to develop in the initial stages. What finally got the ball rolling was the first appearance in the EU LCS 2018 Summer Playoffs in Madrid. “This changed everything for the organisation”, Reichert said.

“This was a big risk. It was not like it was for other League of Legends companies and teams, it was a big gamble based on the outside perspective and the fan perspective because with that money you could have bought a good player for your football team.

“It’s not like a small six-digit investment like it was in 2016, it was a heavy investment at that time, but Madrid changed everything. And when we did invest, and when we started making real revenues and when we also figured out how to convince partners to join our journey, it got bigger and bigger.”

As a matter of fact, Schalke 04 Esports was experiencing steady growth just before the pandemic hit the world. Then, Schalke, as well as a number of other teams and companies, was hit hard, and the time was especially frustrating to Tim Reichert and his team. In a weird twist of fate, it was Reichert’s esports department that helped Schalke’s traditional sports side of the club deal with financial difficulties.

“We were successful, even with limited resources we hired very high profile players and very good guys for the most important areas, like the content creation area,” Reichert said. “We made amazing content and we had good storylines with our teams. But still, there was the other side which was a drama you couldn’t imagine in your worst dreams. COVID, plus getting relegated to the second Bundesliga.”

Tim Reichert at Schalke
Tim Reichert (left) worked as the Chief Gaming Officer at football club Schalke 04. Image credit: Schalke 04

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Reichert learned a lot about the ins and outs of how to make a profitable organisation, and perhaps even more importantly, how to manage expectations and keep a steady stream of revenue in the esports world.

Reichert’s advice to football clubs (and other sports teams trying to get into esports) starts reasonably simple: make a budget and stick to it. This is probably the hardest part for the sports team leaders in the beginning. After that, the esports department needs to have a stable business plan that everyone involved must commit to.

However, Reichert also added a bit of controversial advice: “Commit to a team sport, and not something like FIFA or Fortnite. Every successful sports organisation in the world is based on a team sport and not on a single-player sport. There are no teams for tennis clubs or big teams for table tennis. It’s just non-existent. So you should look into something team-related and not single-player related. I still agree with FIFA for football clubs but next to that – focus on a team sport.”

EXCEL rebrand
EXCEL underwent a rebrand in 2021. Image credit: EXCEL

Fixing issues

Addressing his plans and future at EXCEL, Reichert honestly admitted that his perception of EXCEL was not the greatest while he was in Schalke — although he saw a lot of potential there.

“There was something missing about the teams and the communication to the audience,” Reichert added. “I also addressed that when I had my conversation with EXCEL when we discussed the potential entrance of myself. They were already aware of that, and it was not like I needed to make them aware of it.”

There are currently a lot of internal changes going on in EXCEL and those processes do require a lot of time, Reichert said. However, he feels like he’s on the same page with the organisation, and that’s one of the main reasons he decided to join EXCEL in the first place.

“I have high hopes for the people working here on EXCEL’s end. And a lot of them are not even visible or fans do not even know all that has happened here in a year, internally. Hopefully, we can show them something much better in the future and we can provide them with way more fun and entertaining results.”

Image credit: Michal Konkol / Riot Games

The final goal

The main priority is to entertain the gaming and esports audience, Reichert said and added that this will be the priority for EXCEL in the future because any organisation, be it traditional sports or esports, simply exists for its fans. The second priority is to win, of course. Reichert notes that achieving goals, getting trophies, and having good results are a given when it comes to the organisation’s plans for the future. The main goal, however, is definitely entertaining the audience and broadening the EXCEL fan base.

Reichert concluded: “EXCEL is changing, and this is one of the messages I want to send. Yes, a lot of things are happening, and I’m really happy to be a part of that. I’m also just a small piece in the bigger picture, trying to contribute to the success as well as I can, and hopefully, the people will be satisfied with that.”

EXCEL started its new LEC season with two losses, one to Team BDS and the other to G2, but also with a win against Europe’s new ‘super team’, Vitality. The organisation also secured a partnership with sports retailer JD Esports earlier this month.

The ‘final goal’ of EXCEL is to become a true global contender in the esports industry. That is helped by investments and a set of new hires that bolstered the ranks of the organisation during 2021. The focus on people is apparent when speaking with Reichert, and he pointed out that growing an esports brand is simply very much about people.

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“[EXCEL] added amazing creative people to the content team, and that added up to strong growth in the community. That’s what the idea is about — it sounds simple, but it’s super hard to execute at the end. I think it’s important for us to show the world that we will compete with the best, and we won’t just make playoffs, we aim higher.

“But also, it’s about leveling up on the human resources, leveling up on the people working for EXCEL, and creating the most entertaining and fun content for our audience. Because you attract audiences with entertaining stuff, you don’t attract audiences just because you’re based wherever or you’re telling a big story.

“You need to give the audience consistent content so that the audience is willing to follow you and be a part of your journey.”

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