CASE STUDY: FACEIT Flashpoint 2 - running an esports event during a pandemic

A blog by Johanna Byrane, Head of Business Development, Twickenham Stadium

To anyone working in an events venue in 2020, a six-week residency in November / December 2020 is just about as good as it can get. Added to that, the client was esports tournament organiser, FACEIT, making a welcome return to the stadium after previous successful events at the stadium. So, what does it take to organise a global event, which spans such a long amount of time, in the middle of a pandemic? Guts? Bravery? or Vision? First of all, it has to be said that FACEIT demonstrated all three attributes and more. They were broadcasting in front of some 12 million people, globally, during a time when rules on movement and operating procedures were changing throughout the planning, and ultimately throughout the event.

But this is a community that is not shy of taking risks and pushing the boundaries when it comes to event delivery and we at Twickenham have been thrilled to be part of this journey for the last few years. I like to think that our relationship with FACEIT gave them the confidence to take on the challenge and gave us the understanding of their business to put us in a position where we couldn't let them down.

A bit of background on Twickenham and our long devotion to the esports and gaming marketplace. It's a sector we've been working with for nearly four years now, and one we feel we know well and continue to understand. Our product seems to have an affinity with some of the biggest brands in the marketplace and we've made it our business to engage, learn and support them. So, as 2020 began, online gaming and viewers exceeded all expectations. The desire to enjoy any sort of competition, the lack of traditional sports, and the continual growth of esports as a professional option for sports fans, continued to drive a massive increase in audience figures and demand. This is an industry that surpassed $1 billion this year, in an economy destroying so many others. Now, with more interaction and viewers than ever, publishers within the esports sector are looking for better and better, more professional, more seamless tournament delivery to their audience. That's where we come in.

So, how did we go about it, our brief was straightforward:

Objective: to deliver a tournament with a global reach while ensuring the safety of all staff and competitors

Tournament: CS:GO Flashpoint

Format: 12 global teams compete against each other over a 5-week period

Prize Pool: US $1M

Dates: Nov & December 2020

Location: Twickenham Stadium: Live Room, Nightingale Suite, Shakespeare Suite, Brunel Suites

Hotel: Exclusive use of London Marriott Hotel Twickenham

All of this was complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the constantly changing government guidelines we needed to consider from an operational point of view. An original plan of all 12 teams being located within the hotel in bubbles was soon dismissed, so FACEIT worked on delivering a streamed live broadcast instead. We adapted with them, realistically understanding that this was going to be a feature of the event throughout. Flexibility, adaptability and an agile model of delivery was crucial if this was going to work.

Safety was paramount for all attendees. The FACEIT crew, and the talent within the competition, worked within a Covid-secure bubble throughout meaning that, strangely for our hospitality professionals, client interaction had to be kept to a minimum. This meant we were essentially delivering the event without being near the end client. So what did it look like?

F&B

The flow and delivery of food & beverage was crucial. The same crew and staff would be resident with us for many weeks, so ensuring the catering was innovative, tasty, nutritious and ever changing was a priority for the organiser. A rolling menu including daytime snacks was designed. We then delivered it without getting too up close through the use of a food and beverage ordering app. All menus, along with dietary and allergen details, were loaded onto the app. Food was cooked to order and dropped at a collection point. The client was notified via the app which collection point to collect their meal from. With all meals a self-serve selection of items was also made available for starters and desserts as well as grazing items. Meals could also be dropped outside hotel rooms. Post meal, the catering area was kept locked for a deep clean before the next service began.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing is important to both Twickenham Stadium and also our partners at the RFU. So, when our clients weren't working, their mental and physical wellbeing was paramount. A gym was installed within one of our conference suites and available to use throughout. Pub quizzes and use of our outside green space "The Patch" for an ad hoc game of rugby or kick about also helped.

And of course, gaming. The pitch facing suites within the hotel were transformed into gaming suites for the duration.

With exclusive hire of the hotel as well, this not only eliminated any contact with other guests but also allowed everyone to roam freely and use the comfortable lounge and bar areas throughout their stay.

Technology

Finally, without world class connectivity the event couldn't have worked. Fortunately, Twickenham Stadium already had the required dedicated lines in place, and our experience working with the team at FACEIT meant our technicians were used to the extraordinary reach of the broadcast. However, we also needed an option for staff to continue to work if they did need to isolate in their hotel rooms. Working with the RFU technology team, the connectivity was distributed throughout the hotel as well. Eight fibre connections were installed to run between the venue and the hotel at a speed of 1GB, quickly making the rooms some of the most connected on the planet! The hotel bar was also transformed to deliver a "wrap up" session every day to the millions of viewers with some of the best talent (casters) reviewing the competition.

FACEIT are one of those clients whose ambition challenges the people they work with. We like working with people like them as it allows us to show the full capability of our venue, and the abilities (and personalities) of our staff. The event was undoubtably a success, we were able to host a complex event, in complex circumstances, to the world. Despite having to keep our distance from our clients, it really bonded us together. It was a great experience to end a tough year.

To find out more about hosting an esports event at Twickenham visit here.

Photography credit: Flashpoint 2, Flashpoint 2 Studio

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