The first season of the Overwatch League is less than a week away and every team is gearing up for their first set of matches. One of those teams is the UK based London Spitfire that is owned by the esports organization Cloud 9. Featuring an all-star roster of Korean players, the London Spitfire has quickly emerged as one of the teams to beat in the Overwatch League.
Partnered with this team and Cloud 9 is the London based agency Code Red Esports, We sat down with Code Red’s very own Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner to talk about the London’s newest esports team, the challenges they face, and their plans for connecting with fans.
(Author’s Note: We have trimmed this interview down due to length. However, we are still presenting Paul Chaloner’s full responses to our questions
Heavy: How did you and Code Red Esports find yourself partnered with London Spitfire?
Chaloner: So we were initially contacted by the owners of Cloud 9 back in August-September. We had several very long meetings – some of them over some nice dinners – to discuss the project, how it was working, and what sort of help they needed. As we spoke more it became apparent that actually, we were a natural fit for each another. We’re very passionate about UK esports and we want to help it grow. We’re very much embedded in UK esports and we have a lot of history with UK esports. Myself has been around 15-16 (years) in the industry, Ben (Woodward) a bit longer than that, and Luke (Cotton) probably a decade as well.
We’re very keen on trying to help grow that and the vision that Cloud 9’s owners had for London Spitfire’s matched our own. It was very ambitious, very interesting, and very challenging. Ultimately we share very similar values on what a team should be, how it should operate, and what sort of success it should have. That’s initially how it came about. We’re looking forward to the start of the league next week and seeing how we do competitively. But also, we’re super interested in looking at how the whole organization moves forward in 2018 and what we can build that can be a real benefit to UK esports.
Heavy: The London Spitfire is the only European team currently in the league. Do you feel that London was the best place to represent the EU and is there added pressure going into the first season?
Chaloner: Obviously I’m a little biased since I’m from the UK. I’m probably as British as it comes in esports, I guess. Of course, I’m going to say yes it’s the perfect place for it but I think it genuinely is. There are other great cities across Europe but I think it’s a perfect start for us to represent London. Obviously, we’re very proud of that being that we’re from Britain as well. I know that the whole of Cloud 9’s organization is very proud to represent London. They understand the kind of pressure that comes with that. I think there is an element of pressure, but we embrace that. We have a highly competitive team and are going out to try and win this thing. We’re okay with the pressure. It comes with being the favorite to win the League in the first season.
Heavy: How are you aiming to connect with the core fanbase in both the United Kingdom and London?
Chaloner: I think it’s a multi-faceted task, obviously. We’re a North American team, owned by a North American organization, with Koreans in our team. There’s no escaping that – that’s what it is. We received a bit of flak in the early days of the League for saying “Why take London in?” Part of Code Red’s job and my job personally is to make sure that we are a British team and we are a British organization. That involves a multi-faceted approach. One of them is we want to build an aren. We want to build a shop; we want to build a streaming area, living quarters, and support for our contenders’ team. We want to have all of that in London – a physical location so that we can play our matches there when the time comes.
But we can also use it as an education area. Young people can bring their parents along and show them why they love this esports world they keep talking about. So we can have fans come and view the matches together with like-minded fans of both the League and London Spitfire. A very cool, edgy, and modern facility. Code Red is going to play a part in helping to find that in terms of the right venue and in how it’s designed and operated. The Contenders team will be announced shortly once we’ve finalized everything with Blizzard in the coming days. We’re very pleased with that and if Jack (Cloud 9 Owner) is going to fire me it’s about wanting British players on the team.
I feel it’s a fundamental part of the team. If we can do that via the Contenders team, great. If we can run some projects over the course of the next twelve months to find some brand new, up and coming British talent that would help. It speaks to my want and need of making sure this is a passionate project that is fun, interesting and also relates to the UK esports crowd. Ultimately, the fans will decide who they want to support. We can’t force them to follow us, but we think the plans we’ve got are very exciting for UK esports. We think that will come over the course of 2018.
Heavy: Do you feel that the Spitfires are the best representatives for London and the United Kingdom?
Chaloner: I think that’s something we have to work with the players with over the next twelve months. We certainly going to get them over. We have some very English content team members to announce very shortly that are going to join us or already have joined us. We’ll make that public very shortly. These are British people and we have very British discussions in our chatrooms. Which sort of tea are we having today – it’s all very stereotypical British. I don’t think I’m going to surprise you in any way with some of the chats that we have.
We want our Koreans to come over. They’re already learning English and some of the players already have good English. Bishop (Beoum-jun Lee), the manager, has excellent English. Probably better English than myself and certainly better than my Korean that’s for sure. They’re already starting to understand what it means to represent a city and represent London. They’re from South Korea so, of course, it’s difficult for them to fully relate, but that’s why we want to bring them over. We want to have fan days. We want to have interactions days with them.
We want them to come and sample what Britain’s great at. We want to take them out for fish and chips in Whitley. We want to take them to the tea rooms in London. We want to lock them in the Tower of London and see if they can get out. We want to do fun stuff with them that allows them to interact with our fans here and also understand what it means to represent London.
Heavy: Your first match in Season One is going to be against Flordia Mayhem. Do you feel this will be an easy set of games and are you doing anything special for this first match?
Chaloner: I would love to be able to say “Yeah easy game, totally easy game,” but I’d be lying. Even from what we saw in the preseason we can safely say that the League is going to be much more competitive than people first thought. I think a lot of people looked at the lineups and went “Well, London and Seoul are going to dominate. They’re going to blow everyone away.” Actually, I think people are going to be in for a surprise. I think this is going to be a very competitive first season. Every team wants to win They have got some great lineups across the board. We’ve even got a couple of Brits that I will be quietly cheering for when they’re not playing against London Spitfire.
There’s a lot of interest and a lot of competition. I’m not entirely sure we’ll know whether a match is, in relative terms, easy until we’re a few weeks into the League. By then we’ll see a bit of a pattern. No easy matches to start off with. We start off with Flordia, then we play Fusion, and Dallas Fuel straight afterward. That’s a decent start for us. It probably doesn’t have the big favorites in there, but I think we have to be very careful. Everyone is looking at London Spitfire and they are the team to beat. We saw that in the preseason and what it meant to LA (Los Angeles). I don’t want to make too many predictions for how we’re going to get on in our first three matches, but I think it’s going to be tough.
Heavy: Are there any teams in the Overwatch League that worry you or the players?
Chaloner: Well, I think the obvious one is Seoul since they have other South Koreans playing for them. I think there will be a big rivalry between the sets of players and a lot of friendly banter I’m sure. I think that’s the big one in terms of rivalry for the players. The most difficult game for me to watch personally will probably be against Valiant because it’s got a good friend of mine on the other team in Numlocked – who’s obviously British. For the most part, I will be cheering that he does well, but not when he plays us. That might be difficult if he has a good match because my loyalties will be a little bit torn.
Outside of that, I think every game could be tough with the way that the formats set and the way that we’re strong on certain maps and other teams are strong on different maps. The way that communication is used is the different teams is going to be very interesting to watch. I think those with multinationals in their team might find it a little bit tough in the first few games because they’re still working on their coms. Boy have I heard some reports of them working hard over the winter, even since preseason finished as well. I know they want to win too. I’m looking forward to all of the matches.
Heavy: For those undecided, why should fans support London Spitfire over the other 11 teams?
Chaloner: I can give you three examples. [Pause] Just look at the logo. Why would you choose anyone else, right? That’s as British as it gets. We’re basically Spitfire. Second, if you love any character in the game who would it be? Tracer. She’s our mascot. She’s former RAF; she’s as British as they come. And thirdly, we have kick-ass Koreans. You can’t say no to kick-ass Koreans.
The first season of the Overwatch League kicks off on January 10 with San Francisco Shock taking on Los Angeles Valiant. For more gaming news, features, and guides make sure to visit Heavy’s gaming section.