August 20, 2020

The glass ceiling of the Benelux

If you’ve ever wondered how the Benelux esports ecosystem works, today’s your lucky day. 

If you’re like us, you spend your days with your eyes on the local esports scene. There’s a plethora of talented players, but whenever any team makes it to an international level, we end up having the same conversations over and over. “Why can’t the Benelux keep up with other countries?”

And here’s the TLDR to a very complicated answer.

Money. 

Everything we do as an esports team costs something. Sometimes it costs time and effort, but mostly it costs cold hard cash. For many, the majority of team funding comes from brand sponsorships. Brands sponsor organizations like LowLandLions, providing them with funding in exchange for brand exposure. Everyone does it and it’s a system that works. Except when it doesn’t. 

Here’s the simple math. Players who get paid a competitive salary can afford to focus on their craft because they don’t need to worry about bills or the future. No salary = focusing on paying bills and furthering their education, and scrimming can’t be a priority. Salaries like that don’t come out of thin air. They come from sponsorships. The more money that a sponsor provides, the more that an organization can afford to pay their players.

The problem is, the Benelux is a hard region to sponsor.

Sponsors want to be reassured that their branding will be shown to as many people as possible. The Benelux is 30 million citizens split between three countries and four official languages. Only a fraction of that watches esports, and not everyone will tune in for a Dutch-language broadcast. And because the majority of locals are fluent in English, it’s easier to binge the LEC than to support hard-working local teams. Can’t get the viewers, can’t deliver the exposure, can’t get that sponsor.

So then what?

It’s simple. If the Benelux can’t afford to pay players a competitive salary, the players get poached. There’s a ceiling on the Benelux scene and our best players know that career progression means searching for teams internationally. Talent leaves the Benelux player pool all the time. We perpetuate a cycle of training the best players, only to lose them to teams that we’ll have to face at the next level of competition. It’s not just players though, no. It’s coaches, trainers, assistants, managers.

Just last year we had to say goodbye to Kaas when he accepted an offer to coach the MAD Lions LoL team. We’re happy for him. But in a perfect world, we’d have been able to offer him enough to stay. 

How do we fix it?

That’s a difficult question. Talking like this sounds salty. It sounds like something poor losers would say. But the fact of the matter is, this ecosystem will continue to limit all teams in the Benelux until we can find a sustainable way to build the region up. 

We want better for LowLandLions, but more than that, we want better for this region that we love.