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Sunderland set to become national centre of esports excellence in multi-million pound deal

Sunderland is set to become a national centre of excellence for one of the world’s fastest growing industries.

By Kevin Clark
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 5:14 pm

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The British Esports Association (BEA) is to open a performance and education campus at Riverside Sunderland, which will nurture and support the next generation of talent.

BEA has made a multi-million commitment to Sunderland, having acquired former retail premises next to the Stadium of Light, to establish a National Esports Performance Campus (NEPC).

Esports - an abbreviation of electronic sports - 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.

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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 talent.

It will deliver educational and coaching courses for players and all other roles within the industry, with dedicated esports classrooms, performance rooms, streaming booths and an arena space.

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.

Chester King, chief executive officer at BEA, said: “The UK is Europe’s second biggest video game market and ranked sixth globally – this speaks to the potential of esports which will capitalise on gaming’s popularity, with talented competitors emerging and a growing audience keen to spectate and enjoy esports as a leisure activity. This is a market that we know will explode in the UK and we want to support its growth.

Work on the new campus will start shortly

“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.

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“The site is at the heart of an urban quarter that has to be one of the country’s most exciting regeneration schemes. 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

(from left) Councillor Graeme Miller, Chester King, chief executive officer at BEA and Patrick Melia

absolutely thrilled to be making Sunderland the NEPC’s home.

“The campus will be an inspirational site, a place for players and coaches to work, learn and develop. This is a much-needed facility and through my team’s experiences we understand its importance.”

The move into Sunderland will initially create 20 jobs in the city and it is expected that tens of thousands of spectators will visit the world-class facilities available.

City council chief executive Patrick Melia 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.

“Esports has been a phenomenal global success, and it is a huge growth market in the UK, that will be realised over the coming years. BEA’s move puts Sunderland at the beating heart of that, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”

Council leader Coun Graeme Miller added: “This is a truly game-changing development for Sunderland, and we could not be more excited about having BEA choose the city for its NEPC.”

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