Where is Home for the London Spitfire?: A Troubling Off-Season Conflict (Op-Ed)

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

A controversial tweet is going around the Overwatch fanbase, from London Spitfire General Manager Susie Kim. The team wanted to do a fan meeting during the World Cup, but apparently, Korea’s own Seoul Dynasty did not allow this to happen.

 

The fans have many different views on this topic, the top three being: 

 

1. Seoul is right – it is their city


 

“A Korean team with the name LONDON Spitfire? Maybe they should have got players from England then they wouldn’t have this problem. But you know, they went out and bought TWO Korean teams.”

 

“If you paid 20 million dollars for the chance to build a fan base around a certain territory, would you want your competition to just waltz in and set up shop too? Why should a team identified as London sign a full Korean roster then go throw parties in Korea? If you look at the state of many esports, letting London in because they signed Koreans means probably letting every team in eventually.” 

 

“That’s not harsh at all, actually. Regular sports teams would NEVER do this simply because it’d be weird. The only reason why is because London is all Korean, however, it’s the team’s job to be engaged with the European fans than Korean fans since it is their city.” 

 

2. London is right, it is just a fan meet-and-greet


“This is so petty and stupid as an outsider, I had never heard of such stupid rules in any sport until now honestly.”

 

“What I see is that neither team from LA had any problems with teams doing meet and greets in their area during the regular season, despite having the same exclusivity rights Seoul does. I see that NYXL, host of the finals, didn’t have any problem with Spitfire or Philly meeting fans in their area during the final. And I see that Seoul, the host city of the WORLD Cup, is so far the only team to prevent a meet and greet in their city. It looks even worse to do so during the WORLD cup, a whole affair about coming together in the spirit of the game, which just happens to be in your city. They can do it, sure, but no other team did so, so it really makes them look like a bunch of *********.” 

 

“Reason Number 6273 why localizing esports to an arbitrarily chosen city is stupid. It’s an international sport and always has been. If the majority of players on a team are a specific nationality, of course most of the fans will be from there too.” 

 

3. It would be nice if the London Spitfire – a team from the UK – would have actually visited the UK first before touring Korea


EU fans would not care about meetups in Korea as long as there are ones in EU, and also the players are Korean and most of the fans of these players before owl are from Korea so it seems fair for them to meet them” 

 

“This is for London, but we’re gonna meet you in London 3 months later. We’re gonna visit Seoul first, because…. reasons. LUL. 

If you already visited London, then it’s polite for your hometown fans if you’re going to visit Seoul. If you said because of OWWC, how about visiting Paris instead? At least you’re the only team who’s based in EU. You should’ve understood what’re you signed for in these kinds of home-based teams. Picking London as your home, it means London is your number one priority for anything.” 

 

“The first fan meet the LONDON Spitfire tweets about is a fan meet in SEOUL, not London. Can totally feel how much they care about the city they’re supposed to be representing. They shouldn’t even be worrying about Seoul before they’ve taken care of their “own” god damn city.” 

 

 

The question is…


 …has this been done intentionally to raise awareness, and maybe make Seoul Dynasty change their minds? 

Seoul Dynasty Wins

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Susie was not in an easy position, and none of her options were particularly great. Not tweeting about it would leave fans wondering why they couldn’t meet the Spitfire while the team was back home in Korea. Tweeting about it without pointing any fingers might have been received a bit better, but would still lack an answer to that most crucial question: Why? Then people would have just complained about Blizzard and their weird rules. Pointing fingers directly at Seoul might not have been the best option, but at least it was honest and everyone is on the same page.

Either way, it is an interesting topic that has a lot of different angles and should be discussed as such. I get the argument that the Seoul Dynasty has paid a lot of money to represent a city – THEIR city. Think about it, though. They represent ONE city and everywhere within a 100-mile radius of said city. The league has just started and desperately needs to grow. Teams should support each other to achieve that growth, even at a (small) personal cost. In the end, such support will only help the league as a whole.

And even if Seoul holds their ground, there’s one other point to consider. All of London’s players are from Korea. They played in different Korean teams long before the Overwatch League and have built their own (personal) fanbases back home. Would you really want to deny the fans to meet their team? Their favorite players? London should not have bought two full Korean teams, you say? I think it’s a little late to argue that point, especially after the results of Season 1. 

 

Look at it This Way


Imagine you are going to the Blizzard Arena to watch a match live. You’re from somewhere like Philadelphia, New York, or Dallas, and go to the arena hoping to meet your favorite team and players. You’re denied. There are already two LA teams!  So it’s rather crowded already, and the two LA teams – who already have to contend with each other for fans and glory – are not inclined to give any ground to your team. While we, of course, know that the Valiant and the Gladiators support the other teams playing in their home turf – for now – their generosity stops there in this scenario. How does that denial make you feel?   

 

“Well just wait til Season 3 so you can watch your team at home!” you might say. Thing is, your favorite team might not be your nearest home-town team. Fans that moved to the Bay Area from LA might really want to meet the Gladiators, but they’d be stuck with the Shock if this ruling’s logic spreads across the league. Traveling to your favorite team’s home turf is cool and all, but an Uprising fan in Texas isn’t about to buy a ticket to Logan International every week, right? Seoul’s refusal to allow a London meetup denies Korean Spitfire fans a chance to meet players they’ve rooted for since APEX. And a 5,500-mile plane ticket is definitely not a possibility for most of them.  

 

In fact…


The San Francisco Giants visited their fans in New York after winning the World Series in 2011, and the same happens with hockey teams, European soccer teams, and so on. A team visiting its players’ home countries is not uncommon.

Would Seoul lose any money or fans? Probably not. I could imagine that a lot of Seoul Dynasty fans would probably look forward to meeting players from London Spitfire as well. If it only comes down to a meet, without selling any merchandise, Seoul would not really lose a lot. I think they might only gain, really, by giving their own and other fans this possibility and making the fans happy. Some might even buy some Seoul merch, while at the venue. More people coming means more people engaging with the league, which means more money in the long run. You never know – some Spitfire players might end up in Seoul Dynasty for Season 2. Now they’ve missed the chance to engage with potential fans.

 

So What Happens Now?


2018-07-27 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Yes, the teams invested a lot of money and they want to make money with events and merchandise of their own. And while this is how things usually go in traditional sports, it’s hardly comparable at this point. We live in the 21st century and can connect with pretty much anything and anyone around the world. That means we don’t have to be bound to a team just because it represents the city we live in. A lot of fans watched Overwatch way before the league and have grown with their favorite players. While city-based fandom is also a thing, I don’t think it should be as big in esports as it is with traditional sports. And just because it is an esport doesn’t mean we have to adopt these rules! We can create our own instead – rules that match the futuristic, progressive day and age we live in.

 

As I’ve said before, the OWL is just getting started. To keep the community (and Overwatch) growing, we should maybe support each other instead of pointing fingers or denying a fan meeting. I am friends with people who support other teams, but what we all have in common is our love for Overwatch. We should nurture this love and strive for more. Especially with part of the World Cup being held in Seoul, where Overwatch League players play on completely different teams and a lot of different nationalities are represented.

 

One Last Thought


I still want to say this. It might have been a good idea for the London Spitfire management to set up a meeting (or tour) through the UK first, before going to Korea. After all, they did just win the trophy, and Europe is hungry to get properly involved with the Overwatch League. After putting up with games starting around 0am/1am for Europeans, and especially UK fans, it would have been the right thing to do. I understand that the World Cup is just around the corner, so I guess it’s just unlucky timing in general. Another issue to consider revolves around visas, which prevented the Spitfire from visiting the UK in the first place.

It might now be up to Blizzard to come forward and be open about the rules and what their point of view is regarding this whole situation.

Nina Schneider
Life-long gamer, mostly into FPS and team-oriented games. Played Overwatch from the beginning and followed it ever since, so I live and breathe the game. I love reading and writing, work in IT and am a mother of cats 😀 Follow Nina On Twitter!
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