SUNDERLAND is set to become the UK trailblazer in esports - one of the fastest-growing industries in the world - following a multi-million-pound deal.

The British Esports Association has announced it will open a performance and education campus at Riverside Sunderland, which will nurture and support the next generation of talent, as interest and engagement in esports grows in the UK.

BEA has made a multi-million commitment to Sunderland, having acquired a former retail premises adjacent to the Stadium of Light, where it will establish its National Esports Performance Campus.

Esports refers to organised competitive video gaming, in which teams and individual players pit their skills against one another online, and often in front of large live audiences to win trophies and cash prizes, which can extend to millions of pounds.

Already a phenomenon around the world, 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. Both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games are considering the inclusion of esports in future competitions.

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

The Campus builds on the success of BEA’s projects with schools and colleges that include the first BTEC in esports currently being delivered to over two thousand students and its Student Champs that see nearly 400 school and college teams compete in esports titles across the academic year.

The NEPC is set to open in the summer, with a full refurbishment and an extension planned to the current 11,000 sq ft space set to start this month.

The venue will host regular esports events, community tournaments, summer camps and be used as a training base for the Great Britain esports team, which recently took part in the Global Esports Games in Singapore.

Chester King, chief executive officer at BEA, said: “Sunderland is a hugely ambitious and future-focused city and that aligns very much to BEA and esports, which has vast growth potential and ties into Sunderland’s strengths in gaming, digital and sport.

“Sunderland City Council’s welcome and professional approach from day one has been incredible. The ambition, the focus and determination and the innovation in this city is unparalleled and that’s what appealed to us at BEA and it’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to be making Sunderland the NEPC’s home.”

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to support BEA in making this incredible commitment to our city, which is testament to the ambition and vision we have for Sunderland, and their confidence in it.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a truly game-changing development for Sunderland, which is pioneering in so many ways right now – from our work to build a low carbon future, to developing world-class urban communities, to the digital infrastructure that we’re putting in place across the city."


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