Last month’s announcement that British Esports (BE) – the national body for esports – is set to open a National Esports Performance Campus in Sunderland made headlines across the UK.

But to the average reader, little is known about esports and its huge economic, educational and cultural impact.

So, as Sunderland gets set to welcome the UK’s first National Performance Campus, we made it our mission to catch up with the industry body powering the centre and those already putting the North East on the map as an esports centre of excellence… 


Looking for more information on the National Esport Campus opening in Sunderland? Read on as we answer your burning questions… 

What is esports?



An abbreviation of electronic sports, British Esports defines esports as ‘organised competitive video gaming’ and always human v human.

There are over 40 different esports from different video game categories, MOBA (mobile online battle arena), Battle Royale, sports and simulation, fighting, first-person shooter, strategy and more. The most popular esports titles include: Lead of Legends, Dota2, Rocket League and Overwatch. 

Competitions and competitive matches are often played in front of large live audiences with competitors battling it out to win trophies and cash prizes, which in some instances can amount to millions of pounds.

Already a phenomenon in several territories across the globe, with one in three people globally playing video games and over half a billion fans, esports is set to explode in popularity in the UK. During the Tokyo Olympics, esports was trialled in the form of virtual sports and simulation video games and we will see the Commonwealth Esports Championships be hosted during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.

Competitions also require huge promotion and oversight, meaning a wide variety of jobs are now available in the industry, from content creation and journalism to event managers, broadcast and production specialists, marketing and webcasters, to name just a few.


How big of an industry is it?



According to Ukie, the trade body for the UK games and interactive entertainment industry, the esports sector grew at an annual average rate of 8.5% between 2016 and 2019 and directly supported 1,200 jobs in 2019 alone.

The UK industry contributed £111.5 million to UK GDP in 2019 however, a single major esports event can support 238 full-time members of staff and boost the economy by £12 million.


What will the National Esport Campus look like?



Situated in the shadow of the Stadium of Light, in the former Audi dealership on Stadium Way, the NEPC will become a centre of excellence, providing access to state-of-the-art equipment, training and investment that will support Sunderland, the North East and the UK to become a globally-recognised esports hub capable of attracting and developing the world’s best esports talent.

The campus will offer educational and coaching courses for players and all other roles within the esports industry, and feature dedicated esports classrooms, performance rooms, streaming booths for shoutcaster skills and an arena space. 

It will also play host to regular esports events, community tournaments, summer camps and be used as a training base for the Great Britain esports team.


How will it benefit the city?



The move into Sunderland will initially create 20 jobs in the city, however, it is the wider benefits of esports that make this move hugely significant. 

It is expected that tens of thousands of spectators will visit Sunderland’s NEPC to tap into the world-class facilities that will be available, and that a whole new local ecosystem will be created by the move.

BE has leased the property, which will allow it to grow roots in the city, creating an unrivalled esports facility that is expected to attract tens of thousands of people every year. 


Why Sunderland?



Riverside Sunderland has already attracted hundreds of millions of pounds in private and public sector investment and the British Esports is the latest to realise the site’s vast potential.

The city’s focus on 5G and digital technology was a major driver in BE’s decision. Sunderland City Council recently signed a 20-year strategic partnership with BAI Communications to design, build and operate digital infrastructure including Wi-Fi, LoRaWan (long-range wide area network) and a private 5G small cell network, which will make the city one of the best connected in the UK and position it as the crucible for the digital industries of the future.


What are Sunderland’s links to esports?



Two of the city’s anchor educational institutions, the University of Sunderland and Sunderland College, have both invested heavily in esports provision over recent years.

Sunderland College is launching its first Level 2 and Level 3 esports courses from September (recruiting now) and is one of only 13 colleges across the country to deliver Next Gen Skills Academy qualifications.

The college’s esports team, Sunderland Seers, is also made up of students who are studying on its Animation, Games Design and VFX programmes through NextGen and are the British Esports Championships’ most successful team, with recent wins in games such as Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League.

The University of Sunderland is currently looking into the opportunity of creating some cross-faculty bespoke programmes with esports as a key element for both undergraduate and postgraduate study.


When will it be open?



BE’s National Esports Performance Campus Sunderland is set to open in the summer, with a full refurbishment and an extension planned to the current 11,000 sq ft space. 


What do you think of Sunderland’s National Esport Campus? Get in touch online. Twitter: @SunderlandVibe, Instagram: @SunderlandVibe, Facebook: @SunderlandVibe.

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