Paul Chaloner is an advisor and ambassador for Luckbox and founder of esports agency Code Red
In the interest of improving conditions and pay for on-screen talent, I’ve often spoken to tournament organisers and publishers in the past and the majority are very good at helping.
Ultimately, of course, it’s in their interest as it likely improves the show and their brand.
Certainly, any talent used for their events are, effectively, representing that brand, so anything that helps them do their job better is surely a no-brainer, right?
You’d think so, but the recent influx of newer organisations running events and hiring talent has given rise to some rather laughable issue, ones that, actually, the likes of ESL, Dreamhack, MLG and PGL nipped in the bud years ago.
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I’ll give some examples and lay out why they are important and you can decide for yourself how important they are, but, from my point of view, as a veteran broadcaster in esports, all of these are important to the talent and ultimately the tournament organiser, too.
And I will say this, we're not being prima donnas here. We're not asking for 15 people to meet us from the airport and carry all of our bags or that grapes should be dropped in to our mouths at a suitable angle every 60 seconds while laying back on a couch having our make-up done. No, these are simply things that allow us to do our jobs properly (or better) and shouldn’t even be requests, they should be something provided without question.
Firstly, let's talk about travel. In most instances, international events require some degree of travel, usually a flight. If it’s relatively local, standard-class fares are totally fine, even budget airlines are OK, provided, that is, baggage and any extra costs are covered.
You cannot expect (as one tournament organiser recently did) on-screen talent to travel to your event without bringing any luggage to check in. Shirts, pants, dresses, jackets, shoes all take up plenty of space and it’s not unreasonable to assume that any talent flying to your event will have to check in luggage.
While most flights allow one piece of reasonably sized luggage to be checked in, budget airlines rarely do. So when booking the flight, make sure its included or add it if its not. Expecting talent to pay extra to do this at the airport is unfair.
Likewise, if it’s a long tournament and it’s a long set of flights for talent, they may have to bring extra luggage and ensuring that’s covered in the costs is also important. For these long tournaments, where talent arrives the day before it begins, it's also important they arrive as fresh as they can and that means paying for business flights, specifically so they can rest on the way (business flights offer far more comfort and usually a lay-down bed), arrive fresh and hit the ground running.
It’s hard enough coping with jetlag for the first few days, without starting out looking like shit thanks to your travel efforts.
Food for thought
Providing food is important, too. These are busy people, tethered to the event venue with very little time to do anything other than be on camera and watch the matches (which they have to do to be able to go back out and do their job on camera - they're not just sitting around for the sake of it doing nothing, despite what you might think).
Therefore, providing a runner or on-site catering that is easy to get to is very important. It should go without saying that feeding talent properly and regular with a good range of good-quality food is important to their health and, therefore, how they appear on your show and represent you.
ESL and PGL in particular do a fantastic job of this at events where they provide not only the catering but people to go and get it for talent who are super busy. In addition, they always provide three meals a day and pay for breakfast at the hotel.
Which brings me on the subject of the hotel. Most talent I speak to don’t mind if the hotel is 3-star, 4-star or 5-star. In fact, they would likely forgo the 5-star hotel for a 3-star hotel if it was right next to the venue itself.
This cuts down the travel to and from the event, allows a longer sleeping period (for those extra-long shows - we sometimes have to do up to 16 hours) and means everyone is a little less stressed. It should also cut down on costs for the organiser, too.
We also need some basics in the hotel, such as internet access, an iron, an ironing board and sockets on the wall. While these are hotel issues, many of the top organisers send out a party to vet such things weeks in advance of the event and before they book anything. These simple items help talent a lot and allow them to keep up with the news of the event, follow the streams when not at the venue, turn up and look presentable on camera, with ironed shirts and pressed trousers.
This isn’t hard to do, yet a lot of the newer organisers have missed these small but important items. We're not crying out for 24-carat gold taps or caviar next to the bedside table - we’re looking for some basics to allow us to do our jobs.
Reward hard work
Several of our talent have recently spoken to us at Code Red about feeling guilty or bad for asking for some of these simple items and that’s understandable. These are good people, but they shouldn’t have to feel this way to get things done in such a way which best enables them to do their jobs.
It's not hard to deliver some or even all of these things and it is my belief that all tournament organisers should be providing them without talent having to ask for them.
Many, if not all, esports talent work exceptionally hard, long hours, prepare for the event and try to deliver their absolute best professional work each and every time, regardless of the prestige or size of the tournament.
If they are hampered by simple things like poor flights, crappy hotels, no food and the inability to turn up in clothes that don’t look like they’ve been stolen from a launderette (as well as incurring significant costs in order to do their job) you have to ask yourself as a tournament organiser if you’re really looking after the assets of your event and your brand. I’d offer that you are not.