Although the UK has not hosted the same volume of major esports events as the likes of China, Korea and the USA, the country has been home to several popular tournaments of note across game titles since 2015.
So far, 2023 has witnessed an exciting and encouraging increase in UK-based events, with both the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and the Apex Legends Global Series calling London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park home.
As esports events continue to gain momentum, the UK is slowly becoming a hub for major tournaments and finals. Hopefully, this rise could even lead to more events taking place outside of the UK’s capital city.
The following list details seven of the biggest esports events to take place in the UK between 2015 and 2023. This list is not exhaustive and notes the most popular and well-recognised events during this period.
The UK’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has become a ‘global leader in esports’, according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement made regarding League of Legends’ MSI. The seasonal LAN tournament is the second-biggest League of Legends international competition and hosted 13 teams at the Copper Box arena.
T1 and JDG’s upper bracket games broke the record for the most watched MSI game in the tournament’s history, reaching a peak of 2.3m viewers. The success of the event has even led to reports that League of Legends could return to the UK in the future, this time for its World Championships.
At the time, the event was the fastest-selling Dota 2 tournament in the title’s history, selling over 1,000 tickets in the first five minutes they were on sale. Prominent international esports teams including Team Liquid, OpTic Gaming, Evil Geniuses and Fnatic competed for a slice of the $1m (~£808,410) prize pool, with Virtus.Pro taking $500,000 (~£404,155) and the trophy.
ESL One returned to Birmingham in 2019 after its successful debut. Over the course of the Major, the tournament became the most viewed ESL One Dota 2 event at the time, with a record peak concurrent viewership of 306,070. The event has yet to return to Birmingham following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adding to the prestige of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the ALGS – Apex Legends Global Series – which is hosting all three of its 2023 LAN tournaments at the Copper Box arena. During the ALGS, 60 teams are welcomed to the Split Playoffs and Championships held throughout the year.
February 2023 saw TSM crowned the first Split Playoffs in front of a packed crowd, with the arena set to welcome ALGS teams back in July for Split Two and later in the year for the Championships.
Wembley’s SSE Arena hosted the UK’s first CS:GO FACEIT Major Final in 2018, with the earlier stages of the tournament held at Twickenham Stadium.
The largest slice of the $1m (~£808,410) prize pool was won by Astralis to a peak viewership of over 1m, alongside the live Wembley Arena audience.
FACEIT held the Esports Championship Series (ECS) Season 3 CS:GO finals at the Wembley SSE Arena in 2017, which likely dispelled doubts surrounding the UK’s capabilities to hold a CS:GO Major.
The Rocket League World Championship (RLWC) – part of the wider Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) – headed to London for the first time in 2018. Once again, this was an event that took place at the Copper Box arena.
In total, 10 teams competed for the $250,000 (~£200,000) prize pool, with Team Dignitas winning the tournament. Interestingly, RLCS Season 5 was also the first time the series was operated by Psyonix, independently from Twitch.
Following the success of the 2018 RLWC, the RLCS returned to the Copper Box arena for the 2022 Spring Major. A $300,000 (~£240,000) prize pool was on offer for the Major, with the RLWC being held in Dallas, Texas, later in the season.
2018’s CWL (Call of Duty World League), hosted at Insomnia 62 in Birmingham, was hailed as one of the best events in the League’s history at the time. Strong, loud, and passionate crowds characterised the event, which was capped off by Splyce’s UK roster taking second place in the tournament.
The success of CWL Birmingham was also noted by event organisers, with the tournament making its return to the UK in 2019. CWL London was held at the Copper Box arena and was once again praised for its atmosphere, with caster Ben ‘Benson’ Bowe proclaiming CWL London to have ‘the most electrifying crowd in CoD esports history’.
Opting for a European roadshow, Riot Games hosted its fifth League of Legends World Championship across four locations: Paris, London, Brussels and Berlin.
The Wembley SSE Arena staged the Quarter Finals with live coverage from the BBC. Despite only hosting one stage, this was by far one of the biggest esports events to take place in the country at the time.As the most significant esports event in League of Legends’ calendar, the highest-performing global esports teams flocked to the event to prove their superiority on a global stage.