Interview with Ben Bagg
Ben Bagg, the frontman of CAZ eSports, has recently announced that he will be stepping down from his role at the organisation to pursue a new path inside UK eSports. We took this opportunity to sit down with him and discuss this time at CAZ, and what he had planned for the future.
Tell us about why you chose to step down from CAZ
Well it wasn’t a light decision, but I have just gained funding on a project I’ve been trying to sort probably for 3-4 years. Because of this funding I needed to make a business decision that my time was better spent focusing on UK Gaming Tours. But also a big part of it was that UKGT will be running leagues and obviously I want CAZ to attend these events but if they do I then have a conflict of interest. Also a massive passion for me is to help UK Esports grow, but by running an organisation there is very little I can do to actually grow the scene, other than offering 5 players a chance, what about the rest?
Also running an org is not very rewarding at the level we are, constantly fighting for penny’s and pounds to support our teams and staff, taking 2 steps forward then 1 step back. Having teams disband after one event and looking for another one two days after successes. It’s tiring and a long process, players want the funding, they want as much as we can give and sometimes more. But without having consistency and a solid roster for a long term it makes it even more difficult to bring in more sponsors and more monetisation funding when you have nothing that will last longer than 3 months. A big pet hate is when an org does something right or good for their players, even go the extra mile for them it’s just what everyone expects. But as soon as they make a mistake, or like 6 months ago CAZ’s problems, we are the worst people in the scene trying to just make money. Any org owner at this level, below, and slightly above us will tell you, no one is making money. The people benefiting the most are the players.
CAZ is also a bit of a sap on resources, we put very little into the bank for CAZ from our pockets now, but when I go to events I pay for as much as I can for players, even a pack of cigarettes, all of this is out of my own pocket. I think I spent £500 from my pay day at one event once on players – myself as well of course. Then the teams disband straight after…Very frustrating and expensive haha.
Were you waiting to end on a high, like winning UK Masters, would coming 2nd or lower have prolonged your stay?
Well winning UK Masters was huge for me and CAZ, first LAN win, first trophy. I was beyond happy! But if they came 2nd, 3rd or 4th it wouldn’t of matter for my departure. It is a nice way to “resign” hopefully this Insomnia being my last one as a player manager will be another win for a nice send off. 1st or last 😉
You used the exposure from Cazuall’s youtube following to entice sponsors in, but what role if any did Cazuall play in the day to day life of CAZ eSports?
Liam did a lot behind scenes from day one and still now his already successful brand and exposure pushed us quickly to have a decent demographic reach to bring in sponsors. Using his already long list of contacts he was able to bring in our sponsors and get us financially stable (to a point). Without Liam the org would not be in the same position it is today. In Liam I found a man with the same passion as me, and a good work ethic and without him CAZ would be just another little org trying to make ends meet, offering a server and some jerseys.
Most of the day to day, player relations etc was done by me. But mostly that was very self-ran and easy to manage. Both me and Liam planned events and everything around them. So with me gone in reality not a lot will change bar back end stuff and player relations. We have a replacement in mind for that already and the transition will be as smooth as possible
Do you think CAZ could have been as successful without Cazuall’s name behind it?
No I don’t believe we would be. With the Cazuall brand we were able to attract initial sponsors which allowed us to have cash from the beginning to afford events. The social media pushes and experience in general from Liam got us a demographic reach to really push forward nicely. If we didn’t use the Cazuall brand we would have had a totally different name I’m sure but I think we would be at least 1 year behind the level we are at now.
You are now launching UK Gaming Tours, what’s the plan there?
I won’t be going into too much detail here as we plan to announce everything early December. However we will be hosting UK only Leagues with an Offline final. We will be hosting 3 leagues and 3 finals per year and then a 4th final for our “champions” offering £50,000 Prize for 2017. Our Finals will be held at high-footfall locations around the UK our first being Milton Keynes.
The Business has achieved its first year’s budget from investor funding and we are excited to get 2017 moving.
Our biggest aim, in reality, is not to just create another insular eSports event, but by using High footfall locations we can start to help move UK Esports into the mainstream. We also are not here to compete with UK Masters or ESL premier, to be honest I would much prefer for us all to work together in union and develop this industry, we hope to co-operate with them in the future, and ensure that we are not conflicting on schedules to create more consistency. I firmly believe if there is consistency in UK eSports teams will stick together for longer, with less of this “grass is greener” approach, and more we haven’t got time to create a new line up the next league starts soon!
Event organisers & organisations can only invest and do so much. I hope that with the leagues launching for 2017 from us and others players will open their eyes and start working to turn UK eSports into a career rather than trying to get £200-£400 salaries then disbanding. From what I can tell there’s going to be £100-£200K prize pools in the UK this year, that’s a lot of cash up for grabs. I think the first team that sticks together for 1 year will be taking home a lion’s share of that.