This first blog of my “To Gfinity and Beyond” blog series will report on my interview with exceL esports’ very own Kieran Holmes-Darby. Kieran is the Managing Director and co-founder of exceL esports, one of the largest esports organisations in the UK, and is someone who has been a fundamental figure in pushing exceL to where it is today. Kieran, along with his brother and numerous staff, already have a rich history in the Elite Series extending across all three seasons in which his teams have competed. For this reason, I thought I should get in contact with him and attempt to arrange an interview. Luckily, Kieran agreed for me to interview him at Insomnia 62, and so the following blog post will explore Kieran’s thoughts on Gfinity’s Elite Series and to what extent he believes it is integral to the UK esports scene.
An element of the Gfinity Elite Series that I believe is severely undervalued is its circuited schedule as it’s able to provide investors and team sponsors with stability and a better level of return on their respective investments. Whilst interviewing Kieran, it was apparent that this was something he agreed with too. When I asked Kieran if he believed the future of the scene lies at the door of circuited tournaments, he stated, “It’s very difficult for the teams attending if it’s [an event] just popping up out of nowhere to gain sponsorship long-term.” He then elaborated, “If I can’t tell the sponsor what’s happening in three months’ time, let alone a year down the line, it’s very difficult for us to sell sponsorship. So, from a management point of view, the future for a team a hundred per cent needs to rely on the more circuited tournaments… because it makes everything from a management point of view, both logistically also commercially with the whole sponsorship side of things, so much easier.”
“I think the Gfinity Elite Series is probably one of the best things ever to happen to UK esports”
I attended Gfinity’s Elite Series last week and experienced first-hand how professional the environment is, which in part felt due to its high level of production. I thought it appropriate to ask Kieran if he thought the scale of the Gfinity Elite Series gives both players and staff, that exceL field, good experience and whether it acts as a valuable stepping stone between local grassroot events and global scale events such as those that ESL host? Kieran expressed how he believed the draft system Gfinity has implemented into the Elite Series is, “Really good at tapping into grassroots talent”, and that the franchised nature of the Elite Series does a lot, “for players and staff members in terms of the internals of an organisation.” However, the consequence of this is that the system without relegation, “doesn’t necessarily cater for grassroots teams”, but rather grassroots players. Kieran expanded upon this by explaining how the grassroot players, once scouted through the draft series process, are in a better position as, “The teams you’re going to go to are stable”, and have, “decent financial backing”.
A question which I wanted to focus on was “Do you believe the Elite Series provides vital exposure for exceL?” One thing that organisations ultimately rely on is exposure and media attention to stay relevant and provide a reason for sponsors to invest in teams. Gfinity has been successful in gathering mainstream sponsors and investment from companies such as Lynx, and exclusive streaming deals with platforms such as Facebook, and so I was curious to see what Kieran had to say on the matter. When the question was put to him, Kieran responded with a bold statement and claimed, “Yeah, I think the Gfinity Elite Series is probably one of the best things ever to happen to UK esports”, before going on to describe how, “It’s a much more coherent structure than we have ever seen, I think, and it’s made it a lot easier for ourselves to go out, sell sponsorships and create narratives as well. That’s another thing, you know, having a structure like that allows you to create stories with your players rather than just one-off events”.
The major thing I took from my interview with Kieran is that the Elite Series is some-what of a uniquely structured event in the UK and is unparalleled in the benefits it offers to organisations. The tournaments organised by Gfinity have enabled exceL to receive bigger and better investments from sponsors due to playing on the biggest stage in the UK. This has allowed their staff to gain a broader level of experience in the industry, which will stand them in good stead when competing in even larger and more professional events in the future both domestically and globally.
Many thanks to Kieran for agreeing to be interviewed as part of my “To Gfinity and Beyond” blog series.
More about Kieran and exceL can be found at:
Kieran’s Twitter – https://twitter.com/xL_Kieran
exceL’s website – https://www.excelesports.com/