Is Warwickshire Becoming an Esports Powerhouse? - The Rugby Observer

Is Warwickshire Becoming an Esports Powerhouse?

Warwickshire is a county with a rich sporting pedigree. It is, after all, the place that gave the world the sport of rugby. There’s much more to it than that, though, as the county is home to Warwick Racecourse, one of the oldest horse racing venues in the UK, having opened its gates for the first time back in 1694.

Rugby is, naturally, the sport that the county is most famous for. As the story goes, it was a student of Rugby School, William Webb Ellis, who invented the game when he decided to break the rules and pick up the ball and run with it.

That legendary tale reportedly took place in 1823, though the rules of the sport weren’t codified by Rugby School until 1845. Either way, the world has enjoyed the thrilling sport created in the county for around 200 years.

With this heritage, it’s only natural for the people of Rugby and Warwickshire to continue to push the boundaries of sports. And that’s exactly what’s happening with esports.




What Are Esports?

Esports are a modern take on traditional sports where the arena for battle moves from a field, pitch, or court and is replaced by a video game. Some of these esports are digital creations of these classic competitions, such as EA Sports FC (formerly FIFA) being a virtual version of football and NBA 2K bringing basketball to the box in your living room. With these, however, there are few transferable skills between playing football on a pitch to playing FIFA on a PlayStation.

There are some esports where skills are very transferable, one of the biggest of these is poker. Through online tournaments, players of all abilities from the most casual of competitors to the best-known poker professionals can play together. The line between real world and esports poker is also very blurred as those taking part in online satellites at sites like PokerStars can find their way into major tournaments like the European Poker Tour. A similar trajectory exists in motorsports, with the GT Academy offering race seats to successful simulation racers in the Gran Turismo video game so that they can compete in real-world endurance races.


Then there are esports that have no connection to the real world at all. These fantasy games are complete works of fiction, transporting players into a make-believe world where demons, wizards, goblins, and other creatures battle together for glory. Popular examples include Dota 2 and League of Legends which have become some of the biggest and most successful esports.

Warwickshire – A Centre for Esports

Many towns, cities, counties, and countries are looking to establish themselves are esports powerhouses. They recognise that the industry, while in its infancy now, is likely to balloon into a huge behemoth and those that are at the centre of it could benefit economically and gain fame and prestige, just like how Rugby did for creating its namesake sport.

Warwickshire is at the forefront of this race with the University of Warwick in the driving seat. In 2021, the institution invested £275,000 into the creation of a new Esports Centre at its Warwick campus, building on its already strong pedigree as a leader in the space and having won UK Esports University of the Year for three years in a row.

The centre is used for the university’s own esports activities, including inter-institution competitions and tournaments and its Warwick Esports student society, as well as for the public to use.

The Esports Centre is also used for teaching, both the university’s own classes and others. One of these is the Warwickshire Brighter Futures Esports Futures course, a two-day session for those in Warwickshire who are currently unemployed.

The county’s Evesham College also offers a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Esports. This pre-degree course is backed by the British Esports Association and is designed to build the students’ awareness of the esports industry, as well as grow their business acumen and marketing skills, as well as develop their programming and graphic design abilities.

Combined, this multi-layered approach to esports promotion and development in Warwickshire puts it in good stead for the future as the whole esports ecosystem expands. Will it be as successful as Rugby? Only time will tell.

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