ESports, what’s the big deal?

137,000,000 is the number that appears when you simply type “ESports” into the virtual void that is Google.

You heard us, that’s 137 million related searches for anything ESports related as of the 20th November 2016. That’s more than the total search results for Crystal Palace, Quorn and Lancashire all put together.

It’s a slightly wayward comparison, we know, but it does one thing extremely clearly indeed: it puts into perspective the growing popularity this online world is building.

For some, it’s still batted away like somewhat of an annoyance. “How can an online sport be anything other than some 13-year-old playing FIFA in his Mom’s basement?”

Well, to put it quite simply, it’s about as far away from that as is humanly possible. The gap between ESports and original sporting affairs is closing and Chris Grove of Narus Advisors now believes that by 2020, ESports will have over 15million betting customers.

To crunch that figure a little we should take a look at original betting markets in the UK. Back in 2013, the Association of British Bookmakers filed data that suggested the LBO (Licensed Betting Office) is an entertainment business that holds around 8 million customers.

So essentially, if the prediction made by Chris Grove is correct, the ESPorts betting market will hold twice the power as the likes of Coral, Paddy Power and any other LBO-affiliated organisation. And that’s in just forty-eight months time, if current trends are sustained.

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How the data could look if the ESports development continues and the LBO betting stays the same

But it’s not just data that can show ESports is climbing in popularity- there are major players in the field that are beginning to bring it to the forefront of the public interest.

Louis Lemeillet is the marketing manager of Tricked ESports, an up-and-coming organisation that is trying to dominate the field in Denmark.

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The tricked ESports team logo

We spoke to Lemeillet about the growing popularity of the FIFA brand and how he sees that growing based on the work he’s done in marketing Tricked.

And he firmly believes key market leaders and the continued push between reality and virtual will be the factor in ensuring Grove’s prediction is realized.

“In five years time, I see a model that’ll be built around sports clubs and FIFA working together with EA to create the game’s FIFA Interactive World Cup,” he said.

“It will continue to link virtual and reality more and more- we may eventually have a Champions League with FIFA players representing the sports clubs- we already saw the premise of that with the Legia ESports Cup,” he added.

As for key influencers, he believes the key are former pros and “YouTubers”, those who create FIFA content and edit it for the internet as a full-time job.

“You have 2 types: the ex-pros and the YouTubers- they all gained some popularity and are joining more and more agency and media outlets to produce ESports content to bring to the masses.

“They’ll be the key influencers of tomorrow for me,” Lemeillet added.

It’s a thoroughly interesting debate which does continue to divide the worlds of the virtual and reality. But unfortunately for the doubters, the stats, drive and interest being generated by this market shows ESports is evolving day-by-day.

It’s becoming a very big deal indeed. Good luck trying to explain it to Great-Grandad Phil though…

ESports, what’s the big deal?

Wednesday’s Graduation, Derby day and UClan!

Another week has rolled around and it’s one I’m very much looking forward to as I get to go back to the ‘Source for one last time for my graduation!

I had three of the best years of my life there and I’m absolutely buzzing to go back to see some pals. You forget when you move onto pastures new how many people you meet in all the various places you stay, and I can’t wait to go and catch up with everyone from the course!

It’ll be so cool to see how everyone is doing and where everyone has gone with their careers. And of course, there will be the much needed piss-up when all the robes finally get to come off!

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A project that a couple of us started is also coming to an end next week and our last ever ThursdayNighter Podcast will be filmed and broadcast on Thursday. It’s something that made the radio, got us some credit at uni and generally something that has been a pleasure to record week-after week.

It’s going to be a mad rush on the Tuesday mind- to finish lectures, bomb it down to the station at fiveish, jump on the train and be up fresh as a daisy Wednesday morning- phew! Taking it all in my stride though haha!

And from one uni to the next, things are ticking along extremely nicely here as well. The course is really beginning to pick up and it’s going to be a hectic few weeks leading up to Christmas which means my dreams of taking AFC Wimbledon to the Premier League on FM17 might have to take a back-seat!

I’ve met some cracking people up here and most, if not all Northerns are so friendly! Not got a bad word to say about anyone here and I’m lucky to have bumped into the people I have done as well.

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After some consideration, I’ve really decided to focus my attention on next summer when I finish here at UClan too. I want to go travelling, and do my football tour around the world as planned. I wasn’t too sure about it when I first came back to uni but now more than ever, I’m sure it’s what I both want and need. After speaking to people that have done such cool things themselves, I want to go down that route too.

There’s more to life than freezing yer bollocks off in England year-after-year and I want to see more of the world.

And finally to end on, derby-day came around this weekend and Jesus Christ was it difficult to watch, even though a point isn’t a terrible result in the slightest.

On the pitch, Blues should have won the game but sadly, that’s football and things come in swings and roundabouts. But I must apologise to everyone that watched the game with me- I cried, cheered, sung and screamed and was probably a bit of an embarrassment throughout!

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Credit: The Guardian

But that’s my team, they’re my colours and being away from home only made it worse. But thankfully, it’s not too long until I get a little taste of Brum once again.

Happy Days x

Wednesday’s Graduation, Derby day and UClan!

Settling in and cracking on!

It almost seems like I’m blogging synchronously with my brother these days who has also started a uni website but I assure you, you’ll be reading different content! We might be identical twins but I promise- we’ll be mixing up our blog posts!

I’m settling in up in Lancashire having made the move to UCLan university to study my Masters in Broadcast Journalism and I have to admit, it’s been a seriously promising start.

I love going out, enjoying the nightlife and I’ve been doing plenty of that, hence why I’m cabbaged on my bed enjoying a quiet night in! I feel seriously rough after a busy couple of days and nights but in honesty, it’s nice to have a couple of moments to myself to reflect on my new surroundings.

I’ve drunk like a 17-year-old again over the past couple of days and my body is telling me to pack it in but to that I say, “when did you become old, ye little bastard!?”

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Before I nearly drowned in 1000L of foam…

There are some great people here and I already know I’m going to enjoy the year ahead. But cutting to the chase a little, I’m here to complete what is likely to be my final year of study and the early signs are promising.

I had my first session today and seeing as this is pretty high-level stuff these days, there wasn’t as much faffing around like when I joined uni the first time. We cut to the chase, got our timetables and it seriously dawned on me how much work there will be this time around.

I’ve got fourteen hours of scheduled lectures, six hours of shorthand and all the other stuff that comes with studying at this level- factor in around 20 hours per-week of my own paid journalism too! But I don’t think in all of my educational career (if you can call it that!) have I been ready to tackle something so head on.

Today, we went straight into the newsroom after a couple of hours and were thrown into roles putting together a small bulletin. That’s why I came back to uni- to be sent in straight at the deep end and everyone from the class right up to the teachers are backing up my decision to return. Everyone appears to be friendly, helpful and ready to help you crack on and do your best.

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There are some seriously good facilities here for broadcasting

It’s also sweet to find so many like minded people because if you didn’t know, I love a chin wag! There are people doing the course that haven’t actually done journalism before, but similar sorts of things ranging from media, to TV production to languages. The class has so much variation and with ages ranging from mine up to mature students, group work looks promising when in the past, it’s been difficult to get some momentum going.

I’ve already started a joint project with another keen footie fan where we aim to do some groundhopping at lower league Northern clubs and I’ve got trips to Manchester and Blackpool already booked and ready to go. I’ve got good friends coming up to see me this weekend and a session at Media City hopefully on the way too.

Badminton and Table Tennis trials start in the next couple of days and I’ve got a fantastic gym available to me and it’s only 30 seconds around the corner.

All in all, it’s been a great start so long may it continue.

Settling in and cracking on!

Another journey begins

So it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and yes, it feels pretty good too!

It’s one day before I move house for what seems seems like the hundredth time in my life and this time I’m heading north to Lancashire to start my Masters degree.

Strangely, those butterflies that I had in abundance before my move to uni three years ago aren’t there in the slightest and I can’t wait to get going.

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After meeting such a sound bunch in Worcester, I have little doubt that I should be able to do the same in Preston so that side of things isn’t really worrying me too much at all. I’ve been told to expect a tough time of it in terms of work and to be honest, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t intense. I’m going to take it in my stride and just see how it goes.

It’s been great to have such a busy summer and I’d like to take the time to thank everyone that made it so great. If I’m being honest, I struggled to settle back in at home but after a few weeks I got into the swing of things and ended up having a great summer.

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I’ve been lucky enough to go to all sorts of places on my travels this summer from Portugal, to Manchester, to the Forest of Dean, to London and finally to Benidorm, where I rounded off a summer full of laughs.

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I’m heading up to Preston on my own, on the train with all my stuff on my persons. I’m not the most materialistic of people so I don’t own that much junk but I apologize to all the people on the 9.20 from Brum to Preston- I’m going to have as much shit as I can carry!

Also, sorry it’s been a while since the last post- I’ve been so busy with work recently that I’ve had very little time to do much else. I’m now a senior writer for three websites on the Snack Media roster, and with days like transfer deadline day, it’s been really manic.

Sandwiched between that I’ve spent time with the BBC at the Mailbox, covered games for the websites and been back on the radio in Manchester. It’s been a great summer with a really good balance of work and play too.

Cheers to everyone that’s contributed and off course, here’s to the next one….

Another journey begins

FC United of Manchester V Hereford: A first hand look at what fan ownership can achieve

I was one of several hundred Hereford fans that made the journey up to Broadhurst Park yesterday and after waiting so long to go, I came away feeling very happy indeed, despite Hereford losing 1-0 on the day.

If you don’t know about the FC United story, this is it in a nutshell. The club was formed by “rebel” Manchester United supporters in 2005 who had grown disillusioned with how proceedings at Old Trafford were being run. They despised the Glazer family’s debt-filled takeover and thoroughly believed that the game had gone from the hands of supporters to the greedy shareholders at the top of the commercial food-chain.

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Some words in the FC United bar area- extremely poignant. 

And with that, their decision was made and from a Stretford Pub all those years ago to now, FC United of Manchester was born and they have manage to build a football club that has seen four promotions, a new £6million stadium and the likes of Benfica grace their Broadhurst Park turf.

But what struck me immediately upon arrival was the care and design that had gone into the whole set-up and stadium. It’s as far away from the expensive and atmospherically devoid Old Trafford as you can be, but in itself, holds buckets of charm.

The supporters club was friendly and welcoming, and everyone at FC United was more than happy for the two sets of supporters to mix before, during and after the game, just as they did at Edgar Street last year.

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Hereford flags intertwined with FC banners behind the away end

The long bar in the main terrace behind the goal is extremely charming, complete with 3g turf, framed FC United pictures and stickers from most sides that have ever visited Broadhurst Park. Even I was impressed by how many “Against Modern Football” stickers there were plastered around the place- not to forget the cheap beer that was on sale too.

It was everything you’d hope it to be and more- everything the club has worked so hard to become. It was interesting to talk to FC United fans about the prospect of 100% fan-ownership, and the difficulties and positives that brings to the club. There had been some fall out over the past year or so suggesting that some of those in the higher echelons of the club had neglected some of the core principles laid down when the club had originally formed.

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Outside the impressive Broadhurst Park

People from outside the club were beginning to question how successful fan-ownership could be, but again, those hardcore FC United fans rebuffed any lingering negativity some try and direct at the club. “It’s our club and we will stay loyal to what we intended to begin” is that attitude that flows around the stadium, and you’ve got to admire them for that.

To some, things like a 50p rise in programme fees is petty, but for me, its another show of just how committed this club and its supporters are in remaining true to their name. They’re the sort of actions that can be commended when you want to keep the price down for everyone- one of the reasons the club was formed.

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The programme which again, was excellent value for money

The whole set-up was slick, well-run and friendly. I remember Sir Alex Ferguson himself slating the project, suggesting these fans had got above themselves. But to him and others like him I say this. FC United is a reminder that socialists like Fergie and the Manchester United board had deserted the supporters, not the supporters Man Utd.

Supporters are and always will be the heartbeat of any sports team or football club, and FC United’s brazen attempt to challenge the dominant culture surrounding the beautiful game is truly admirable.

There’s not a single Russian oligarch in sight and to quote the FC fans who didn’t stop singing all game “That’s the way aha aha I like it”.

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Inside the stadium 

 

 

FC United of Manchester V Hereford: A first hand look at what fan ownership can achieve

FC United of Manchester trip incoming!

I’ve been waiting for the opportunity since they were first founded back in 2005 but finally I’ve got the chance to go and see what FC United of Manchester are all about.

Hereford FC travel up to Broadhurst Park towards the end of July for a pre-season friendly in what will be a pretty iconic trip in their history. For the neutral and probably unknowing football supporter, it sounds like just another pre-season day-out where the teams will be looking to gel and gather some match fitness.

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FC United players take in their Edgar Street surroundings back in July last year

But even in their short history, Hereford FC have had the chance to establish some pretty friendly links with fellow clubs, and this can’t be reflected more than in their relationship with FC United of Manchester.

The Red Rebels were the first ever side to play the newly formed Hereford back at Edgar Street on 11th July 2015, and with them they brought passion, friendliness and support for a club that they could well and truly sympathise with when it comes to bringing the game back in the direction of the supporters.

I know me and every other Hereford fan will thank the FC fans for all their help and kind words during that special tie that was eventually won by Hereford 1-0.

On a slightly different note, I’d been saddened to read that there was a little bit of un-harmony amongst some pockets of FC United fans coming towards the end of the season for various reasons. I truly hope that those involved can settle their disputes in order for the club to continue its untimely rise through the various divisions in English football. I’m sure at some point during my lifetime that dream tie against Manchester United will happen and I for one will be there cheering on Karl Marginson’s side.

Here’s to the 23rd of July where two great, up-and-coming sides will meet again.

FC United of Manchester trip incoming!

Pride of a dragon: Wales everything England weren’t

It’s five minutes after Wales’ staggering 3-1 victory over Belgium in the quarter finals of Euro 2016 and I’m still absolutely speechless- I’ve never seen anything like it.

As a proud Englishman I’m absolutely delighted for a Wales team that have just completely proved that they are not here to make up the numbers. Every single one of those Wales players should be so proud of themselves- they will have inspired a generation.

Chris Coleman said it perfectly in his post match interview: “Don’t be afraid to dream because then you can’t be afraid to fail”. Sounds like something out of a philosophy book doesn’t it?

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I remember watching a rather poignant piece on Gary Speed before the tournament began. He was a player and manager that I grew up watching on the television as a youngster and I can’t help but feel this is for him. Part of this Wales squad was molded, formed by him and it’s such a reward for a man I wish was alive each and every day.

But most of all, watching this evening has completely and utterly proved just how bad England were during their defeat to Iceland. But I’m not going to talk about England- I’m going to talk about Wales. Heart, desire, passion are the three words that spring to mind. Every single Wales goal was celebrated as a group of around 30. All the players, all the management, all the coaches, all the physios- all in it together. That was so obviously lacking from the England side you could have seen it from space.

As much as I’m delighted for Wales, it does make it more difficult to be English. I thought we were the three Lions but out in France, it’s been the Dragon that has dominated.

Pride of a dragon: Wales everything England weren’t