The esports sector was already enjoying strong growth and international interest from audiences and investors alike, but the Covid-19 pandemic has provided it with an unexpected assist.
With people staying at home and spending more time online, coupled with regular sporting events being cancelled or postponed, the advent of new esports has happened abruptly. F1 and boxing have got in on the act, while esports players are becoming nearly as famous as their traditional counterparts.
‘Esports is the fastest growing sport and is attracting global interest from companies, brands and publishers wanting to get in on the action,’ says Ray Kavanagh FCCA, CFO at Game Digital.
‘It’s very different to other sports as it has developed purely as a professional sport with no grassroots tournaments or social interactions,’ he adds. ‘It’s a bit like football developing purely in Champions’ League without having any lower level leagues or tournaments.’
This is set to change, however, as arenas such as Game Digital’s Belong Gaming Arenas open across the UK and the awareness of the sport grows.
‘Investment continues to be heavily focused on the professional teams for now, with new sponsors and wealthy individuals buying rights to teams, but investment has also started at grassroots level to open arenas and attract aspiring competitors to participate,’ Kavanagh explains.
The esports market has evolved rapidly over the past 18 months, with industry analysts anticipating further change. ‘Free-to-play and battle royale games, such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, have introduced esports to a whole new audience,’ Kavanagh says.
‘Dedicated channels such as Twitch help satiate appetite for viewing and open up a whole new world for enthusiasts.’
Esports is the fastest growing sport and is attracting global interest from companies, brands and publishers wanting to get in on the action
Kavanagh’s CFO duties cover the UK and Spain, where the company has around 500 shops employing 4,500 people with a turnover of £800m. Game operates in a very cyclical business, driven by new releases and console cycle launches, making it very different to fashion retail and department stores.
As an executive-level role, the CFO’s duties and responsibilities can be understandably broad, depending on the size of the company, potentially covering leadership and management of finance and accounting departments; overseeing financial forecasting, reporting and budgets; advising on long-term financial and business planning; managing change and transformation; and all HR and IT related to the finance departments. CFOs also work alongside CEOs and executive management teams on company strategy.
At CFO level, flawless technical skills are essential and will likely have been honed on the way to the top. ‘ACCA is a very useful qualification regardless of industry,’ says Kavanagh. ‘It demonstrates a technical expertise that the business requires, coupled with commerciality to support business strategy development and delivery.’
Furthermore, the role requires the ability to build and lead high-performing teams; develop and maintain strong relationships; communicate effectively; and have knowledge of the latest accounting and finance technology developments.
Getting in and getting on
Kavanagh had spent his entire career before joining Game in retail, spending 20 years at House of Fraser
‘Retail is a fast-moving sector that requires agility in thinking, good data and insight to support decision-making, and a commercial partnering of key stakeholders,’ he says.
Beyond CFO level, there aren’t many positions save for CEO or company owner. Alternatively, you can move between companies large and small, though you’ll likely find most success by keeping to sectors or industries in which you have built up experience and expertise.
In the case of the esports sector, it’s booming and at the cutting edge of technological innovation, so careers here can be varied and exciting.
‘Gamers are very passionate and know everything about the characters and worlds in which they operate,’ said Kavanagh. ‘You can’t help but be taken along by their passion and fascination, and get drawn into the desire to succeed.’