[Interview]: Lightning Pandas Manager Oliver Sellors Explains Why Gfinity Has Saved European eSports

The former eSports team owner discusses the sorry state of eSports in the UK in this exclusive interview.
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The former pro gamer and current manager of UK Call of Duty team, Lightning Pandas, knows first-hand how tough eSports can be in the United Kingdom. He had to disband Prophecy, one of the most popular eSports teams in the UK, because of lack of sponsorship. The former manager of Faze just joined up with Lightning Pandas as their manager on July 5, a deal that came out of nowhere a few months after the Call of Duty Championship in Los Angeles earlier this year. Sellors explains how Gfinity has helped European eSports in this exclusive interview.

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John Gaudiosi [GS]: Why did you join Lightning Pandas?

I joined the LP because I saw the huge potential in themselves and the brand. They are already recognized globally in such a short amount of time, the diversity in the team and brand is huge, and hopefully I can deliver big things for them!


[GS]:How did you get involved in eSports?

Sellors: I used to play Call of Duty 4 and I didn’t think it was going to be that big, so I stopped playing. Maybe a year later I saw the scene was getting big like. I was working full time, so I didn’t have the time to play. So about six years ago I got into it and eSports has grown and grown.

GS: How has your background in actually playing esports helped as a manager?

Sellors: It helps because when I used to play I got to know all the big players. So when it came to actually management and pick out teams, I knew a lot of the guys. I had a good friendship with the guys, so it actually really helped coming from playing. I bet you’ll see a lot more players in the future, if they want to stay involved in gaming, they’ll slip into the management side of things once they get too old or they think they’re slowly deteriorating in skill.

GS: Can you explain to people what the manager does in eSports?

Sellors: There are different types of managers. I’m doing the business side of it. I work with the current sponsors, network for new sponsors, literally everything that helps the business run. On top of that, I’m also the pro team manager.

GS: We’re seeing in the U.S., especially around League of Legends, sponsors like Coke and American Express get involved.  What’s it like over in Europe with sponsors?

Sellors: Over in Europe it’s hot. I used to own my own team called Prophecy, which is from the UK. We were known as the biggest brand in Europe, but I had to close it because of financial reasons. Trying to get money over there is difficult, even for the biggest teams. We were what the equivalent to what Optic Gaming is in America. There’s no support in the UK and the EU mainland.  Powers like Germany and France get quite good support and their community is big. And America is steps ahead right now. 

GS: So how are organizations like Gfinity helping you out?

Sellors: If Gfinity hadn’t come around I don’t think there’d be more than one UK team at the Call of Duty Championship. We had the other events like EGL, the European Gaming League, and they were great, but they didn’t seem to really grow. They came into the market at an intermediate level and stayed that way. They had support from all the top players around Europe and it was just a shame that they didn’t evolve. But then Gfinity came on and we finally have someone on par with MLG. Gfinity really is a lifesaver for the EU right now.

GS: When it comes to eSports we saw League of Legends sell out Staples Center and DotA 2 played in a German soccer stadium. What is it like to see this merging of real sports and eSports with stadiums?

Sellors: I follow League of Legends a lot and it’s amazing the growth there. Then I saw The International game announced and it’s huge. I’ve seen gaming grow and I reckon the next thing is you’ll see stadiums filled every month. I reckon it will become the most mainstream sports on TV maybe in ten years’ time.

GS: What’s a misconception about pro gamers?

Sellors: Gaming is portrayed as a lazy guy that sits in his room, but then you come to an event and most guys are just normal, healthy guys.

GS: NFL player Rodger Saffold bought Call of Duty team Rise Nation.

Sellors: I love American football as well, so the more people you get involved in eSprots, the faster it’s goingto grow. So that’s great.

Follow Lightning Pandas on Twitter @LightningPandaz

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site Gamerhub.tv.