Twickenham stadium homes UK Esports team Excel
By Yinsu Collins
Last Updated: 17/04/19 10:01am
UK League of Legends team Excel have opened an esports training facility at Twickenham Stadium, the first of its kind in Europe.
The home of English rugby has provided a dedicated space, including two scrim rooms, a ten-person solo practice and streaming room as well as an in-house media studio for the British esports organisation.
It isn't the first time Twickenham has been involved in the competitive video gaming scene and Debbie Neilson, Twickenham's Business Development Manager believes it's a worthy and exciting investment.
She said: "Everyone is talking about esports and trying to understand it, for us, we're looking at it as a new form of entertainment.
"A lot of what the team does replicate a traditional sports team which might surprise people and it's been an amazing journey to be a part of.
"We're all about grassroots and we want to see people develop. There isn't a rugby equivalent I esports so we can't test the water in any other way like football can do with FIFA.
"We've got a lot of space in the stadium and we want to utilise that. Any revenue we make will be put back into rugby which is always our end goal."
There have been prominent and ongoing debates surrounding esports and where it fits around traditional sports and Joel Holmes-Darby, the director of esports at Excel is aware of the lack of understanding traditional sports fans might have regarding their move to Twickenham Stadium.
He said: "I think sports and esports already coexist, they're not in direct competition unless in a situation where the two are being broadcasted at the same time.
"I grew up playing traditional sports and have been a Spurs supporter my whole life. For me, I'd come home from football training and play video games. There is no reason why you can't enjoy both.
"You've already seeing an overlap especially in the younger demographic where there are a lot of people that watch both sports and esports.
"As an industry in esports, we're learning a lot from traditional sport and we're trying to incorporate some of that into our team. People wouldn't necessarily expect things like physical training programmes, nutritionists, stretching and mobility and sports psychologists to be associated with gaming.
"We're not promoting people to sit and play video games for 16 hours a day. That is not conducive to what we believe elite esports should be."
His brother and managing director of Excel Kieran Holmes-Darby added: "The key word is collaboration not competition. We're not trying to take people off the pitch and into video games.
"Some professional athletes probably play more video games than their own sports. We just need to normalise gaming and normalise esports to a point where people see it as a form of entertainment. You can have a healthy life doing and enjoying both sports and esports."
Excel, who are competing in one of Europe's most prestigious tournaments the League of Legends European Championship will be flying their players to and from Berlin on a weekly basis in order to utilise the facility at Twickenham.
The British esports team will also have access to the onsite Virgin Active gym as well as amenities from the Marriot Hotel situated inside the stadium.
But Kieran believes Excel won't be the only party benefitting from their collaboration.
He said: "The reason they're doing it is that the viewership is clearly there and there is an engaging, younger demographic that perhaps rugby is not currently engaging with.
"It makes business sense for Twickenham to be involved with esports. They had the Stones here last year performing - I think it's super smart for them to widen their horizon and be a multi-purpose arena. Diversification is smart in any business so why not diversify into esports?"