If you think of Britain’s most high-profile sports coaches on the world stage, you probably picture Sir Dave Brailsford, the cycling guru, or Sir Clive Woodward, the rugby World Cup-winning head coach — not a man who runs a team of video-game players.
Matthew Bailey is a British manager leading an all-star team of professional video gamers in an international “e-sport” tournament with a prize pool of more than £11 million.
The International will play out over six days next week at Seattle’s 17,000-seat KeyArena, with millions more watching live on Twitch, an online viewing site.
The world’s leading professional gamers, usually aged between 16 and 25, can earn salaries of about £3,000 a month, and hundreds of thousands in prize money. They will compete at Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena, in which two teams of five characters battle it out to destroy each other’s strongholds.
Mr Bailey, 27, who used to work in computer forensics, is the British manager leading Team Secret, a group of five players from Canada, Sweden, Germany and Estonia, who are among the favourites for the title. “I handle their travel, their hotels, their flights, their food, everything — so all these guys have to worry about is the game itself.”
Most teams are run by e-sports organisations, who rely on sponsorship from technology companies or video game accessories companies. Zhihao Chen, 25, a Chinese gamer known as “Hao”, is the highest-earning professional, making £800,000.
Team Secret’s players are known by IDs, such as “Arteezy”, a Canadian called Artour Babaev, or “Puppey”, a 25-year-old Estonian called Clement Ivanov, who has made £480,000 and is the top-earning non-Chinese player.
The quarter-finals of the League of Legends world championship will take place at Wembley in October.
“Internet gaming has progressed from small get-togethers to football stadium-sized events,” said Jim Maguire, who runs the British company TCM-Gaming, which employs coaches to ensure that its players keep fit, eat well and continue their education.
Darren Ball, who runs FM-eSports, said: “Gaming has gone from geeks playing in their bedrooms to a multibillion industry.”