One of the most interesting parts about the Overwatch League is something that has yet to be fully implemented: the promise of city based teams. While teams certainly don the banner of their city, they have yet to return to their home and construct arenas, offer fan events, and so on. Right now, the only teams with the ability to play on a home stage are the Los Angeles Valiant and Gladiators, and even they will eventually be moving to bigger, most customized grounds.
The London Spitfire is the only team representing Europe, and they’ve always encountered the clash between their very English, the most English, home-town and their South Korean roster. It’s a contrast that other teams haven’t hesitated to point out and poke fun at, and its also a competitive choice meant to trump blended rosters built from talent around the world. Despite the fact that they’re a South Korean team playing in Los Angeles, the organization backed by Cloud9 has made a very important choice: working with Code Red Esports and noted English esports veteran Paul ‘Redeye’ Chaloner, the managing Director at Code Red Esports.
Heroes Never Die had the chance to be included in a round table with Chaloner earlier this month, where we discussed everything from winning games to hometown pride to courting an international audience while remaining very, very English.
Viewing parties? Check. Fan meet-ups? Check? A Discord with player access? Check. Chaloner confidently checks off the expected list of local events and esports parties that have become a standard for Overwatch League teams. Ultimately, though, the Spitfire have the unique opportunity of being the British team. This means that Chaloner and his team at Code Red Esports need to create something that can serve a market who is very familiar with football feuds and local rivalries.
“Once the League’s finished, we want to get them over to Britain.” Chaloner said of the team. “We’re going to experiment. I’ve got this weird fantasy in my head of taking the South Korean players and taking them on a roadshow around Britain--eating fish and chips in Whitby Harbor and taking them for tea and scones in York Cathedral. Y’know, all of these crazy Britain fans we love doing.”
“[We need] our Korean players to understand how important it is that they represent the city of London. We need to bring them here, and get them to interact with the fans and listen to what they have to say, and experience the culture in this country.” he adds, noting that some of the above may sound stereotypical, but the idea of them interacting with London culture is not a joke and there’s quite a lot to take in.
After the tour, settling down in London will be a process that requires two-way communication with fans. In addition to fan interaction, meet-ups, and an “accessible” line-up, he notes that the Spitfire wants to continuously hear from fans, especially since they’re planning some “weird, interesting” things. It’ll take time to build the London presence, ranging from 12-18 months, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, especially with some details on home and away matches still unannounced.
By building these local roots, Code Red may just unearth the next “diamonds in the rough”—players who aren’t familiar with Overwatch or the League... yet. Having a strong local presence, Chaloner reckons, will allow the Spitfire to talent hunt and find the UK’s strongest talent. “I’ll keep nagging Jack [Etienne of Cloud9] until he’s sick of me, or fires me, until we’ve got British players in the organization, whether that’s on the Contenders team, whether it’s as amateurs we help, as content creators, as people we can nurture and grow through the system and get them into the Overwatch League... even it’s for another team.”
That’s the core of Spitfire’s plan. Yes, their roster is South Korean... but the rest of the organization backing them is British to the core. When looking for the staff needed to build this necessary infrastructure, Code Red look for passionate esports fans involved in the scene. “It’s harder to teach someone to have passion for esports than it is to teach them an organization role. I’m always a big fan of getting people in who are hardworking, passionate, and love esports, and giving them the tools necessary to have a great job.”
That being said, Chaloner recognizes that it takes all sorts to build a foundation for success. Cloud9 and Code Red will be filling the office with talented staff, with an eye on the long term. One thing that becomes abundantly clear is that Chaloner isn’t worried in the slightest about the contrast between the South Korean roster and the London scene they plan to build.
“The key to success is winning.” he notes, mentioning that all the big names, including Chaloner and Jack Etienne, behind the Spitfire are very competitive. “We have one main goal, the overarching goal of everything that we have for London Spitfire is that we want to win. That’s ingrained in the Cloud9 DNA. This is no different for us. In order to do that, we have the best set of players in the entire League and the entire best set of managers [coaches, and support staff] in the entire League.”
On top of winning, which the Spitfire are most certainly doing with a 5-1 record, Chaloner believes there’s a universal appeal to the brand, noting that the Spitfire is a “global brand.”
“Just look at the logo. It’s the best damn logo in the entire league! Second point: we have the best mascot in the entire League - everyone loves Tracer! Tracer is awesome, she’s British, and she’s RAF. She’s the perfect mascot for London. Thirdly, we have kickass Koreans! How can you not love this team!”
It’s a compelling pitch, and on paper, Code Red Esports’ plan looks like a winning one:
- Win a lot.
- Settle down roots and build a strong local scene.
- Bring the roster to London and have them fall in love.
- Win some more.
London will be looking to complete point one of that plan tomorrow in Los Angeles against the Seoul Dynasty, as another week of Overwatch League action kicks off.