Gfinity’s Martin Wyatt on grassroots esports & why its Elite series is a “watershed moment” for UK esports

Esports outfit Gfinity have recently named a date for their long-awaited Gfinity Elite Series event, after a series of delays marred the event. This led to some critics of the company to speculate about the status of the event after Gfinity didn’t come forwards with a new date.

Regardless, looking to put that behind them Gfinity have stepped forwards and announced that the Elite Draft, which is kicking off the Elite Series, will take place on June 14 with the Elite Series kicking off on July 7.

For Martin Wyatt, Gfinity’s head of partner relationships, it’s a time to be excited not just for the tournament taking place, but the players, casters and other grassroots talent that Gfinity are introducing to competitive play for the first time.

“For a long time we’ve been quite vocal and quite passionate about how we want to help and take responsibility for the growth of the the UK scene and the Elite series very much has been designed to do that.” said Wyatt, who throughout our conversation on Skype talked about how excited he was to have the chance to help grow the UK’s esport scene, which has typically been seen as lagging somewhat behind the rest of the world.

“We have for a long time seen the UK sports community as a sleeping giant. We very much see an untapped pot of potential in terms of playing talent, broadcast talent and other esports talent – you name it.”

“I think we’ve got the ability and now the Elite series is launched and live what we’re hoping is that it would elevate the UK sport scene into the same sort of level of professionalism and reputation as other countries. You know we’re on a journey. We know the UK tends to be little bit behind but ultimately the goal is for the Elite series to really establish the UK as a point of envy for the rest of the eSports world.”

The Elite Series will see live events and streams taking place at the Gfinity Arena in London for weekly events in several different games, giving fans and competitors the chance to come down and see the events play out live in a lively environment. The spectacle needs to be part of the show, and for that reason, the event will have many of the trappings of traditional sports broadcasts, including the live draft of 48 esports athletes to kick off the series. The draft will see players from several different games represented, creating a multi-disciplinary feel that’s generally been lacking from a lot of esports events.

While Wyatt stressed the focus is currently on season 1 of the Elite Series, located in London, he’s clear that it has the potential to run for several years.

“Ultimately, the target is how to grow participation great leadership and grow awareness of eSports,” said Wyatt. “the goal is to establish (the league model) in the UK and then take it internationally where other communities in other countries around the world can benefit from a structure that the Elite series has. There is nothing like it anywhere. The ability for us to be able to create a very clear, aspirational pathway for people who play casually and then moving into a kind of an amateur/semi-pro level and then being given the opportunity to play professionally is a model we think that different communities locally in different countries around the world will find attractive and will want to take part in.”

This grassroots growth has been the focus of retailer GAME’s recent esports efforts, and Wyatt says that Gfinity have been “putting our money where our big mouth has been before, to establish something to really kick off a grassroots scene.”

For other organisations looking to try and foster grassroots talents, Wyatt has advice: “What I think teams, in terms of organisation, need to do is take the time and take the effort to really do some proper scouting, to really get amongst grassroots tournaments, competitions and players to start to pick out the talent.

“What we are really excited about for the Elite series is that actually we are going to start to uncover some superstars. We’re bound to uncover some real top quality players who undoubtedly are going to go on to become world champions in the game that they love playing.”

This is going to take time too, with Wyatt conceding that even teams eager to jump into supporting grassroots esports, it’s going to be a test as organisations try to work out the best model for themselves to be sniffing out talent.

“I think it’s effort definitely worth putting in, and it’s arrogant perhaps but we consider this a watershed moment for the UK’s esports scene,” said Wyatt. “We want to show the world that the UK does have a very rich pool of talent from an eSports perspective. We do it as well as anybody else out in the world. I think that from a Gfinity perspective we’re excited and very proud to be able to present the series to the eSports world and we are flying the flag for the UK and beyond. We hope everybody continues to support us as well as they have done. We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received so far and long may that continue. We’re hoping that we continue to build something special.”

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