UK universities launch new esports tournament
By Yinsu Collins
Last Updated: 03/05/18 5:22pm
UK's first University esports body was announced on Wednesday night at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere.
The National Students Esports [NSE], created by Benchmark, is supported by the British Universities & Colleges Sport [BUCS], the national governing body for university sports in the UK.
The NSE will aim to raise the profile of the university esports scene by running a league across seven titles, two seasons per academic year as well as launching a first-of-its-kind digital community platform.
It will inevitably have some overlaps with the existing university league, the National University Esports League [NUEL] but Jonathan Tilbury, the Executive Director of NSE insists the two organisations have different goals.
He said: "The differences between us will be clear when we officially launch the league. Obviously, there is a huge amount of overlap but I feel that is just the consequence of the restrictions of trying to expand in a small space.
"At the end of the day, competition is good. It drives us to improve and pushes up forward. There have been a lot of advances in the university esports scene in the last six months and it can only get better.
"We're both doing the same thing which is trying to drive the UK market forward.
"However, the most important thing for us is ensuring that people's time, investment and the skills they practice and develop in university Esports are rewarded and recognised.
"For us, the goal would be finding a way to recognise the benefit this has on people and making students feel like they're in a better position in a careers point of view when they leave university."
Two student reps, Sam Hine, 20, from Warwick University and Yakub Oktar, 20 from De Montfort University, believe that the NSE will benefit the university esports but also have their own concerns.
Yakub said: "It's got the same concept as NUEL but it's more in-house which is really good because it makes things much more interesting.
"I feel like both organisations benefit each other too. One of them is making universities more inclined to accept esports while the NUEL is fostering the skills of the students to keep them on the path.
Sam added: "I really do hope they find a middle ground and can work together in the future since it is giving societies a big headache right now deciding which organisation to get support from.
"Obviously we've built up a good relationship with NUEL over the past three years so it'll be a challenge to see what the NSE can offer as well as NUEL.
"It'd be great for us and for most societies if these two organisations can work together but having said that, it is a great thing to have competition with two leagues running at the same time."
With BUCS's official backing, Sam and Yakub also weigh in on the possibilities of esports societies becoming recognised as sports societies.
Sam said: "I like the way that the NSE are appealing directly to the university's sabbatical officers and staff but with somewhere like Warwick becoming a sports society can actually do more harm than good.
"It costs £70 to join a sports society which is really steep and asking our members who aren't really interested in traditional sports to fork out that much money might deter people from joining."
Yakub added: "But the perks of that is, if it does get classified as a sports society, that means the university will have to provide us with equipment such as the means of having high-end PCs to play and practice on. Computers are obviously expensive but so are equipment for traditional athletes so if the extra funding will go to that then for me, it'd be worth the joining fee."
The official university esports championships will begin in October 2018.